Un Jour En France antique store represents an American dream come true
Antique store represents an American dream come true.
By Sondra Barr
Cave Creek is about as Western a town as you’ll find anywhere in this day and age, which is exactly what appealed to Richard and Isabelle Martin when they were looking for a spot to open Un Jour En France. The French natives grew up enamored with John Ford Western movies and everything Americana. And, it was during their first trip to the United States, after driving for three weeks through Arizona (in August, no less), that they knew they’d found the right location for their French antiques shop.
“The landscapes, sunrises, sunsets, everything is just gorgeous in Arizona,” says Isabelle Martin in lilting English tinged with a melodic French accent. The pair also loved the area’s cowboy culture. “When we met, that was what brought us together. We loved country music, we loved stars and stripe decorations all over our house––Richard also got me to love American cars and trucks. That was a passion we had in common and then the antiques came,” she says.
Before setting out on their Arizona journey, the pair had been scouring the French countryside over 10 years searching for unique finds from flea markets and such. Soon they were storing many of their eclectic purchases in a friend’s warehouse, including an assortment of centuries-old armoires, tables, dressers, French panetières, trunks, bonnetières, as well as smaller items like copper pans, enameled coffee pots, bottles, and glasses. As the couple bought more, the concept of opening a French antiques store in the states started to form, as did the thought that opening up one in the midst of a Western town might be a novel idea.
But, first, the couple had to round up enough capital to make their idea a reality. So, in 2008 they opened a Route 66-esque diner in France named Pizza Country. Their hard work paid off and in July of 2014, they sold the restaurant for a profit and started laying the groundwork to head to the states with their beloved antiques.
To get the fragile, one-of-kind, and in most cases, irreplaceable items to the U.S. proved laborious and started with the pieces being carefully placed in a shipping container. “It’s a long journey, from the warehouse, in a container up on a truck, then to Lyon, France, out of the truck, then it goes on a barge on the river to the south of France, then from the barge to a boat to Italy, and then in Italy it gets loaded on another boat bound for Long Beach, California,” explains Isabelle. It’s a journey that takes over two months.
While most of the items arrive without incident, a few pieces have been damaged, which is where Richard’s unique skill set comes in handy. “He’s the waxing guy, the fixing guy, the refurbishing guy. He knows everything about everything––the wood, the period, where the piece comes from,” says Isabelle of her husband, who sports a tattoo of the United States on his arm.
The American Dream finally came true for the Martins when they opened Un Jour En France in the fall of last year in Cave Creek’s charming Stagecoach Village center. Since opening, Isabelle and Martin have been warmly received by the local business community, as well as by the many customers and home designers who are delighted by the authentic assortment of French antiques for purchase in prices points starting from a couple of dollars for Parisian one-shot glasses to a walnut monastery table for $7,000.
The allure of the store is that each item has its own story and contains a bit of French history, a piece of heart, a fragment of a previous life during a different time. “We operate in an industry where experience is essential and in which there is no room for improvisation. Indeed, the authenticity and remarkably preserved condition of each item assures the best investment for the antique collectors and home designers,” says Isabelle, who can recount the history and origin of the pieces in Un Jour En France. She points out a 200-year-old wedding armoire that was originally full of linens and clothes in a bride’s new home, then a 300-year-old renaissance buffet, before showing off one of her favorite pieces, an intricate statue of an eagle that came from a church in 18th century France. “All the pieces have stories,” says Isabelle.
Un Jour En France represents what the Martins consider their last adventure in life and they’re eager to share their culture in a country that means so much to them. Says Isabelle, “For us Europeans, I think the United States represents the land of anything possible. That’s how we see it from overseas. If you work hard here, you can succeed.”
Un Jour En France Antiques
7100 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek
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