by Morri Mostow
Walking into Intérieurs Sud is like stepping into the South of France. This charming little Knowlton shop, open since December, 1999, specializes in foods (vinegars, mustards, herbs, terrines and more), ceramic tableware and linens imported from Provence and Corsica.
But behind the scenes, the owners are running a busy shipping operation. Following their success last August at the CGTE Gift Show in Toronto, they expanded into wholesale distribution to stores across Quebec and Canada. Since the show, they have quadrupled the number of wholesale customers for their unique wares. Orders have been pouring in, more than doubling their sales in just eight months.
The challenge now is to provide a high level of customer service to so many customers, said Christian Gauthier, who owns the operation with wife Véronique Pagès. To handle the volume, they have recently hired two full-time employees plus Gauthier himself, who now has to make time for his other business interests. They also hired three sales representatives (one for Quebec and two for the rest of Canada) and expect to add two or three more a year for the next few years.
Gauthier and Pagès are a talented team who emigrated from the South of France six years ago. They are now Canadian citizens, as are their two children (12 and 6), who attend St-Édouard school in Knowlton. In addition to importing over 800 traditional, often handmade products from Provence and Corsica including two different lines of boutis (a quilted bedspread unique to Provence) in 12 different traditional patterns the pair design, build and install Provençal-style kitchens, with cupboard doors in old patinas typical of the region. Two of their kitchens have been installed in homes in Montreal and Bromont.
Were still new at all this and have lots of work to do to establish a national presence, adds Gauthier, who is also planning to eventually open boutiques in New England and California.
Intérieurs Sud, 273 Knowlton Road, Knowlton. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tel: (450) 243-6888
The elves at Knowltons charming Christmas shop, Elfe du Village, have just introduced silk floral arrangements, as well as an event-planning and decorating service.
From cala lilies, orchids and roses to geraniums and cosmos, these silk flowers look so real that people stop to smell them, says co-owner Bob Marsh, a Santa double with bushy white beard and rosy cheeks. Camille Grenier, the in-store floral designer, is trained to create arrangements for every décor.
Head elf and co-owner Elaine Cooper Marsh is looking forward to planning themed events, complete with costumes and decorations. She has 20 years of event-planning experience, supplemented by her skills as a thespian, broadcaster and caterer. We can handle all occasions, she says, from romantic picnics and dinners, to large parties and weddings. She already has several medieval weddings booked for this summer.
Christmas lasts all year at Elfe du Village, which offers a huge assortment of Christmas ornaments, miniature villages and collectibles. Few visitors can resist sampling the shops delicious homemade fudge, available in more than a half-dozen tempting flavours, with more on the way this summer. Look for Elfe du Village at Home Expo (May 18 and 19) at the Brome Fair grounds, where its newest services will be on display.
Elfe du Village, 61 Lakeside, Knowlton. Open daily. Tel: (450) 243-6635
Stuck with saggy or torn seats on your favourite caned chairs? Diane Allard can help. She recently completed a caning course at Heroes Memorial School in Cowansville. Now she restores the antique chairs that she and her husband John sell in their used furniture and antique shop in West Brome. You can take your broken chairs in for an estimate during regular business hours.
It takes about half a day to re-cane a chair, says Diane, who also does hand-weaving with twisted fiber as well as caning with bamboo (minimum charge: $50 per chair). You can watch Diane at work in her shop or at Booth 136 at the Home Expo (May 18 & 19, Brome Fair grounds).
Le Relais du Meuble, 1109 Route 139, West Brome. Tel: (450) 266-3424