“We didn’t want to extend just to extend,” begins Benjamin Sormonte, standing with his Maman co-owner Elisa Marshall in the middle of their homey brick-walled market Marché Maman, located adjacent to their popular café. The sound of construction tools buzzed in the SoHo space the afternoon before their official opening, and the team was gearing up to knock down one of the white walls to conjoin their two spaces. “We don’t want to just add more seating. We wanted to do something a bit more exciting and make sure we activate the space, so here we are today,” Sormonte adds.
While there is more seating — 40 seats inside and an additional 20 in an outdoor patio — the real focus of Marché Maman is its roster of like-minded vendors. The “market” includes a Flower Girl bouquet station, a MilkMade ice cream stand, Jamini home decor, and Maman’s signature tableware. Sormonte, who hails from the South of France, recruited Frédéric Fekkai’s new beauty brand Bastide into the space, as well as a nook for French children’s clothier Merci Bisous.
The spirit of collaboration is embedded in the Marché Maman ethos. Maman has hosted private events and workshops, and the team is hoping to facilitate and promote collaboration across the brands stocked in the space. Flower Girl, for example, will provide floral arrangements for events and store displays, and the MilkMade ice cream will incorporate the Maman’s cookie dough and popular lavender hot chocolate. The kitchen station is stocked with KitchenAid products, set up as an interactive showroom to host cooking workshops.
For many of the brands, Marché Maman offers an opportunity to have a physical retail space without the monetary commitment. They also plan to partner with chefs and popular food bloggers for pop-ups, beginning with Anna Watson Carl of “The Yellow Table.”
“I have so many friends that are cookbook authors and food bloggers, and I drool over their Instagram, and I know everyone does. It’s like, ‘I need to try this person’s food,'” Marshall explains. “But unless you’re personally friends with them and go over to their house for dinner, or make it yourself from their cookbook, there is no opportunity to do that. I think we wanted it to be opportunistic for chefs, for small businesses as well, and to really give them exposure.”
“We really want them to be part of something different — not just a little booth and kiosk,” Marshall adds. “It was really us curating the brands and putting trust in them. We are all about collaborations and bringing together great people who share the same audience and the same target.” For Marché Maman, that target audience is mostly female, ages 20 to 40.
“I feel that the industry today — and the dining experience — people want so much more. For me, I want multisensory experiences, and I want to go somewhere where it smells beautiful, looks beautiful and tastes beautiful,” Marshall says, surveying the airy market, which is merchandised with aspirational appeal — a crib outfitted with an assortment of whimsical stuffed animals, a sink set up with coordinating beauty products, a table set with blue-and-white dishware and fresh flowers. “Each brand has its story,” she adds.
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