Syndicat de L’Épicerie Française

Paris, France | C.1902

Photo Credit: Alex Huynh

Once home to the French Grocery Syndicate, the stunningly ornate facade of this turn-of-the century building bears all the markers of Art Nouveau design. And it’s no surprise, as the architects, Raymond Barbaud and Edouard Bauchai, conceived the building at the peak of the art movement’s popularity. So, why such an opulent design for a grocer’s union? (Well, why not?) The importance of food in French culture may give us a clue.

France’s Grocery Syndicate first emerged in the mid-19th century. Founded in 1846 by grocery wholesaler Etienne Caron, the Syndicate was created as a trade union for grocers, and held immense importance within the Parisian community. Small, independent grocers seeking representation could now turn to the Syndicate for resources. In 1900, the organization acquired the land of a former hotel on rue de Renard and built the Syndicate building seen here. 

Until 1930, the Syndicate was recognized as one of the most powerful unions of its time. The organization occupied the first three floors of the building while the upper floors held apartment housing. Eventually, large distributors began overpowering small traders and the Syndicate was forced to downsize to a single floor. By the 1980s, the Syndicate had moved out and the ground floor was transformed into a theater, which still operates today as the Théâtre du Renard.

Today, the former Syndicate building, though often noticed for its outward beauty, also remains a standing testimonial to the impact of grocers and small markets within Paris. Often recognized and sought out for the freshness of their foods, Paris markets hold a significant place in French culture, providing fresh produce, meats, and breads that make their country’s cuisine a cornerstone of taste and decadence.

:memo: Written by: Kelly Murray

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