CINCINNATI – There may be a direct flight linking Cincinnati and Paris, but for a more hassle-free European-fueled fix, there's a home store in Madisonville that's a must see.
Owners – and husband and wife duo – Sylvain and Ann Acher started French Rendezvous as an antiques-only outfit in Montgomery in 2000.
But over the course of nearly two decades, they've morphed it into a smorgasbord of foreign-inspired goods now located on busy Madison Road. There's artwork, wire sculptures, glassware and china. Tablecloths, tea towels and linens. Lotions, soups and perfumes, even authentic berets, and so much more.
The store also just so happens to stock the most authentic croissants in Cincinnati, which you can sample yourself for a mere $2 a piece. Be sure to call ahead, because they can sell out seriously fast.
This business, however, is about more than pastries. There's baguettes, too, but, again, we digress.
Packaged food – think French jams, candies, cookies, teas and chocolates – is a top seller. So are the ceramic cicadas. Yes, cicadas, except these silent replicas exist in the form of magnets, brooches or wall pockets. The insect is kind of a big deal in the south of France, Ann said, and symbolizes relaxation and fun. Lucky for some, you can shop almost all the store's inventory online.
"We can always tell if there's a cicada invasion somewhere, because we'll get lots of orders for those," she sai
"There might be a few things in here from Italy, but I would say 95 percent of the stuff is French," she added. "We try to carry things that you can't necessarily find other places."
Sylvain, who was born in France, and Ann, who's American, met in Italy "many, many years ago," she said, while she was in school. The couple settled in Cincinnati, where Sylvain doubles as a musician and jazz guitarist.
LOVE IT TOO: French Rendez-vous, 6124 Madison Road, Madisonville. An outlet for all things French for both you and your home. The store features unique, only-found-in-Cincinnati items, with plenty of nooks to explore. Plus, croissants.
IF YOU GO: The store is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Sunday hours (noon-4 p.m.) are offered between the Thanksgiving holiday and New Year's Eve.
ASK ABOUT: The black and white photo; framed and hung high in the kitchen. It's of a group that includes Sylvain's grandfather, who was serving as an apprentice to a baker in Paris, France, circa 1930.
The Achers landed on Madisonville before its new hip status as one of Cincinnati's next "hot neighborhoods." The shop is next door to the Korean United Methodist Church, down the way from Ron's BBQ and just steps from Mazunte's Mercado. But they've enjoyed the fruits of the area's recent successes, and the foot traffic that's followed.
"I would say five years ago, people were really reluctant to even get out of their cars," Ann said. "That's changed. Madisonville just has a great feel, and the neighbors are wonderful. It's old school, and everyone looks out for each other."
It doesn't hurt, either, that their 1878 residential rehab makes for an unexpected but insanely amazing retail backdrop. The couple spent half a year remaking the space at 6124 Madison Road, a former foreclosure that they "bought on the spot." Big windows give way to tons of natural light – the yellows totally pop – and there's plenty of nooks to explore and tables at which to sit. Visitors should prepare to be wowed further by the hidden gem of a backyard.
"It's so unique," Sylvain said. "When we first opened, even people who lived here (in the neighborhood) said, 'You guys should be in Hyde Park.' No. We like it here. And look at it now…People walk in and tell us they feel like they're in France."
Of course, we could never leave without making one last mention of those croissants – there's macarons, too, for those craving something sweet, and a multi-grain bread you can take and bake at home. The Achers only added the commercial kitchen about two years ago – and the move has proved genius.
"It's (been) a catalyst," Sylvain said. "People don't need this stuff every day," he added, making a sweeping gesture across store, "but we eat, so having good, quality food, it's created a new type of traffic, a regular customer. One day later, they might come back in for a French gift or soap."
We, for one, love the idea of all things French, without an eight-hour jaunt.