Biscuits or Bust
Parler Paris–your taste of life in Paris and France
Monday, June 13, 2005
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
It’s officially the first doggie bakery in France.
They scratched their heads and didn’t know how to categorize it, when Harriet (Hat) Sternstein attempted to register her new business in France. It took four months to get the permits after translating the recipes in French and convincing them that it was perfectly okay to use honey, eggs, milk (animal products) to make gourmet biscuits for consumption by canines.
Mon Bon Chien opened less than two weeks ago after almost one full year of preparation and three years of angst. Hat was an attendee of the first Working and Living in France Conference, where she learned that it was “possible” to open a business in France. At the time, we all looked at her with wonder as she expounded on her zany idea to open the first pet bakery in France. She had no clue what was really in store for her.
She jokes, “In the States, it would have taken me three days to do what it took three years here to accomplish!” A bit exaggerated…but it took five months to get her “carte de commerçant étranger,” four months to get the permit to bake on premises, four months to negotiate a lease (only to be refused for no apparent reason and to have to start all over finding another location) and months of battling with a plumber who stopped working mid stream.
The good news is she has survived it and is now the happy patron of the country’s first enterprise of its kind. She thanks those who helped her every step of the way, particularly Marie-Elisabeth Crochard, co-coordinator of the Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group, who she befriended while taking French lessons not long after she arrived in Paris.
The boutique is about 65 square meters and larger than she had envisioned it would be, enough space to house the bakery and a grooming room. A glass case displays her “pâtisseries de chien” in flavors such as: Ginger and Molasses, Bacon, Chicken, BBQ Beef, Biscotti, Peanut Butter, Vegetable and Garlic-Cheese-Parsley. All natural, no preservatives, the biscuits are edible by humans. When I tasted the Ginger and Molasses, I failed to sneak the taste from Sophie, the shop mascot, who became jealous and begged for her own.
Hat imported all the finest products from the U.S….Custom made doggie coats and carrying bags, personalized jewelry (your child and her pet can have matching bracelets!), beds, squeak toys and “gentle leaders” (Hat refuses to carry choke chains). For the pups, there are nail polish, “Greenie” dental fresheners, holistic croquettes and a “peignoir” for just getting out of the bath. For owners, you can be the chicest on your block when you carry a special sac for your pooper-scooper and plastic bags…designed to encourage a cleaner Paris.
In David Downie’s new book, “Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light,” scheduled to be on the bookshelves this coming August, he writes: “According to studies I’ve read, an estimated 8 to 10 million dogs live in France, a country with about 58 million inhabitants. That means on average there’s a dog for every six people. Nearly 500,000 dogs live in the capital (its human population is 2.2 million). That makes Paris not only the City of Light but also the European Capital of Dog Dirt and the world Mecca of the Canine Obsessed. The dog dirt is a major health hazard, number two after car-related accidents, and has been the object of many, so far unsuccessful advertising, poster, radio and television campaigns whose goal is to toilet-train Parisian dog owners.”
Mon Bon Chien isn’t JUST a “Boutique de Biscuiterie Gourmet.” It’s a “Salon de Beauté,” too. “Artus,” a young West Highland White, was gleefully standing on the table while an able stylist coiffed her silky white locks into a Summer do. Downie goes on to add that “France has an estimated 3,200 canine beauty salons, hundreds of them in Paris, and they all seem to be prospering. The fishmonger’s or dry goods store, not to mention the authentic local bistro we all once loved, are things of the recent past, but the dog salon trade is booming.”
That’s a good thing for Hat Sternstein, because she’s put her life’s savings into Mon Bon Chien, not to mention blood, sweat and tears. It’s become her “raison d’être” and now it’s down to biscuits or bust.
You can visit Hat and Sophie at:
Mon Bon Chien
P.S. “Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light” won’t be out for another couple months, but we’ll be sure to let you know when and where to get it. For now, learn more about David Downie’s latest prose by visiting his site at http://www.parisparisthebook.com/
P.P.S. See you tomorrow afternoon at Parler Paris Après Midi from 3 to 5 p.m. Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for details.
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Biscuits or Bust
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