Little Shop of

by Musette

They are the stuff of legend.  That freaky little shop in San Francisco where the guy won’t even open the door, let alone sell you the sausage perfume.  The wacky ‘ fell off the back of the truck’ storefront in LA where you found the old Mitsouko jammed behind 15 bottles of Soul Curve, the treasure chest tucked in that rundown Nebraska strip mall with dusty old boxes of vintage  Diors and Cotys  (okay I made that one up)….

..I’m talking little perfume/beauty shops.  The real, indie deal.  Sometimes they are jewel boxes like Bridget Lescher’s Odalisque Beauty in Geneva, which is two rooms tiny and beautifully filled-to-the-brim with niche makeup, intriguing perfumes like Kai and Juliette has a Gun ( I scrabbed 3 Esteban samps that I will review anon), crazy-cool treatment  that I cannot resist (if you are a weird substance from Japan, you OWN me)….and Bridget, glowing like a jewel herself, making all 7 people who can fit in there feel wonderful~ (except El O who was way too big for the place.  Almost too scared to move, he backed nervously, like a Belgian in a pony stall, not taking a breath until he bumped into the door). 

Odalisque is the place you go to when you want to “enjoy being a girl” and no matter what’s going on for real,  in there you are oh! so pretty and Bridget is gonna make you prettier.  And smell good (or weird), too!  She’s too busy to do online orders but NEVER too busy to take a call.  And they ship daily.  I’m not nearly cute enough for this little shop, I swear.  But it’s still my little girlie treat.

And I’m still trying to figure out how the bathroom, shared by 5 different businesses, is always clean.  There are only two of us here and ours is always…..oh, wait.  Those 5 businesses:  all not El O.

From there, down the rabbit hole, via Mother Courreges. Nova Shoes and Perfume in Uptown.  Luckily sweet Furriner met me there – it was one of those experiences that had to be shared.  This is the Bizarro World of indie perfume shops. Ditch the Birkin and grab the Walletini – you have to walk sideways in this shop, it’s so crammed.  Craptastic shoes, funky hats and knockoff scarves by the boatload, with insane levels of vintage/ rare perfume jewels and current ickola scattered around the shelves.  Orange price stickers on everything, which Domenico, the delightful owner, tears off as he sees fit.   Once I was vetted as a non-thief he went outside for a smoke and let me play a bit ….this tiny shop is a blast.  Barbara Bui jammed behind bottles of JLo Glow and Ice Mountain Spring Water and old newspapers….Yvresse!! Van Cleef Burmane (huh?  Never heard of it but it’s purty!)…Paco Rabanne Metal, which I never see anywhere (where the hell did he get that?) – and I think he had Chaos though it ain’t cheap….btw prices depend on the mood he is in, if he thinks it’s rare/discontinued and if he’s not jonesin’ for a cig, I think. If he doesn’t like you, he raises the price – right in front of your face!  Gotta love it.  It’s worth the haul up Broadway.

That’s all I the shops I know in New Rahmland, ooh!  wait!  I almost forgot about Merz Apothecary !  If you are looking for old-school European beauty/fragrance/health…that’s your Holy Grail right there.   I’m talking the Original, not that trumpery thing in Macy’s.   Beyond Chicagoland what other indies are out there?  Surely every decent-sized town has somebody who flies the funky perfume/beauty freak-flag?  So they might  have to sell CKOne to keep the heat on.   But I’ll betcha they have a bottle or two of something wacky in the corner, hmmm?   I’m throwing it open to you, my darlings.    What’s out there?  I know March’s love for Art with Flowers, and the vaunted Roger Beck in Minneapolis used to do something similar..  And Scent Bar and Aedes are in their own galaxy of Fabulosity.  But there’s gotta be more… Is there ‘little shop’ life on other perfume planets?  Cough ‘em up so we can do a Road Trip!

  • Flora says:

    Well, it’s not a dusty shop filled with obscure bargains, but The Perfume House in Portland, Oregon is my truly magic place. Old world charm, almost 2,000 kinds of perfume, a vintage perfume and bottle “museum” (I could just weep over the bottles in that glass case!)and the nicest people on Earth running it. I discovered my love for “real” perfume there when it opened about 25 years ago, sniffing Femme and Shocking for the first time, and lost beauties like Ondine, old Fragonards and the original Jean Laportes. “Shrines” to Caron, Guerlain, and Jean Patou and Amouage abide there along with the newer lines like Serge Lutens and Montale. All of this in a funky little building that you have to see to believe-from the outside you would never guess what treasures lie within. Any perfumista who has the chance must visit one day!

    • Musette says:

      Ho, yus! We discussed a July trip this past year but July found me in a corn silo, Thank Floyd $-)$-) – not quite ‘west’ enough for the Perfume House.

      My first experience with Ondine was by accident – prolly 25 years ago? Marshall Field’s in Oakbrook. Stumbled upon it. Fell in love. Bought it. Used it all up. I hear you can get it at the Vermont Country Store – but I 😕

      xo >-)

      • Flora says:

        I don’t think the Vermont Country Store juice is the real deal. They also sell Intoxication d’Amour, but there is NO way they could be selling the original quality fragrance at those prices! I suspect they bought the old formula and had it redone on the cheap. I have not smelled it so I can’t say for sure, but I know what those things used to smell like.

  • Sara A. says:

    Every time I’m visiting my family in Fort Lauderdale, FL I make it a point to get to the Festival Flea Market. There you can find stalls upon stalls of just about everything under the sun including beauty supplies and such fabulous nail polish and discounted Dead Sea creams. There are also about three stalls carrying perfume. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been there since the perfume habit kicked in, but they carry small travel-size bottles in most things and much that I hadn’t heard of when I was last there.

    Also there’s a fabulous food section where you can find all the different cured fishes of Jewish cuisine, all the meat of Italian, and all the baked goods you’d ever want.

  • nozknoz says:

    There is a shop in Gaithersburg, Maryland, that sounds enticing: Rochelli’s La Boutique. According to the website, they have enticing things like Eau d’Italie, Ineke, Miller et Bertaux. It’s not really that far from DC, but I don’t drive, so it will most likely remain an enticing legend….

  • Kate says:

    A couple of years ago I went to the World’s Saddest Mall in west Baltimore with some other perfumistas (Sariah and Kristy) and we scored Theorema and some oldish Guerlains. The owner let us walk behind the counters and try everything on! I don’t think he’s in business and besides, driving through block after block of boarded up rowhouses in Baltimore was soul-achingly sad.

  • March says:

    Okay, I really need to get back out to your neck of the woods, my dear.

    • Musette says:

      C’mon ovah. But not to my actual ‘neck ‘ – I’ll meet you around the top of the head, okay – the ‘neck’ is cowish/piggish/horseish

      xxoxo >-)

  • candyrabbit says:

    The most amazing place I’ve been to was the late, great Rare Essence in San Francisco (not too far from the infamous Don’t Touch the Sausage Perfume! Don’t Even Point! shop.) Imagine Aedes, but peppered with finds like the original Armani Le Parfum; a full-on display of Patou’s “Ma Collection”; Chaos; Mille et Une Rose; Laura Ashley #1; Caron powder puffs; etc. I remember when the owner jetted off to Paris to HAVE HIS GLOVES SCENTED at MPG. I spent hours chatting with him… and forking over my paycheck.

    • sweetlife says:

      Wait–LATE great? So it is no more? So sad! That was one of the ones I wanted to visit some day. Is there, by chance, another like it that I could be thinking of?

      • Musette says:

        :((

        it’s gone? I remember that place! How can it be that the sausage place is still there and this is not???

        :((

        xo >-)

      • candyrabbit says:

        Yes, Rare Essence closed a few years ago. IIRC, one owner (Judith) opened a perfume shop in Mendocino (north of SF) and the other owner (Atticus) started a boutique in one of the hotels in Japantown (Hotel Nikko?) Mendocino isn’t too far away… I need to check it out.

        Atticus was the king of samples and spritzing and chatting, and the sausage guy (Jacqueline Perfumery)… isn’t. Good stuff at Jacqueline, though, and they managed to track down a few bottles of KL for my mom.

  • Doc Elly says:

    I’d like to put in a good word for Knows Perfume in West Seattle. It’s a relatively new, small, indie shop with a good selection. I wrote about it in my blog a while back: http://perfumenw.blogspot.com/2010/08/knows-perfume-gem-in-west-seattle.html

    • Musette says:

      excellent~ thanks! I remember Seattle as a nice indie-centric place (great indie bookshops, e.g. – we have lost the bulk of those in Chicago, alas). Nice to know there’s some indie-‘fumin’ going on there as well!

      xo >-)

    • Dante's Bra says:

      Knows Perfume is grand! Great selection o’indies, cool bath products, and the owner is super-excited to talk perfume and make recommendations. They just started a little sample program which is great and affordable, and now they’re going to have a Perfume 101 class, too. Finally I can come out of the closet in the perfume-phobic northwest!

      Essenza in Fremont is awesome, too: gorgeous, small store with an amazing selection (the biggest and best Serge stash, Mandy Aftel, Parfums DelRae, Esteban, Miller et Bertaux, etc.), and the women who run it are extremely helpful and generous and kind. Mandy Aftel came and did a talk/demo where she “composed” one of her perfumes and passed around strips with all the oils she uses.

      There’s an antique mall here, too, where I’ve been finding some fabulous oldies, most recently a beautiful Fleurs de Rocaille, maybe from the 40s? There’s an 80-year-old lady on one of the islands who’s slowly selling her stash– I’m dying to meet her!

    • Cheryl says:

      I’m from Canada and found this shop in her first weekend open. The owner is fun! Wonderful shop. Cute little neighbourhood with a great bakery. The grocery store around the corner sells fantastic wine and cheeses. There are shoe stores! Also nice smaller dress shops. Girlie Heaven.

      • ElizabethC says:

        I live in that neighborhood (West Seattle) and could not believe my luck when Knows Perfume opened. Christen, the owner, is absolutely great to talk with about perfumes and her selection is amazing!!!! The store is a real treasure! As for the great bakery – try their twice-baked almond croissants the next time you are in Seattle!

  • Victoria says:

    It sounds so wonderful! I love these kind of interesting places. I also love flea markets. At the Saturday market at Marche aux Fleurs in Nice I once bought a vintage bottle of Liu for 30 euros. I have seen lots of other vintage bottles, but from what I surmised, my find was atypical. They are usually sold for much more!

  • Ann says:

    Great post, sweetie! I’ve got to come shopping in Chi-town area one of these days. And I’ll definitely have to check out those mall kiosks more closely. Thanks!

  • maggiecat says:

    I’m jealous – I never seem to live in places where these shops are found – Florida was too retirement-chic and Dallas is too…well, Dallas. Maybe we need a road trip? Indie-palooza, anyone?

  • Nava says:

    My dream is to go to Scent Bar in LA, but that’s all it is right now – just a dream. In the meantime, there’s a lovely little shop in the Yorkville section of Toronto called PIR cosmetics. I need to get there one day soon.

    Art with Flowers was a joy when I was living in the DC area. I do so miss Bill, Jose and the rest of the gang there.

    • Musette says:

      I used to shoot in Toronto all the time and LOVED the Yorkville area – there were so many charming little shops. I still have a jacket I bought from an indie designer there, 20 years ago (big jacket/coat, thank Floyd. 20 years ago I was 20 sizes smaller, it seems 🙁

      anyway, I’m thrilled to learn Yorkville still has indie shops! Get to PIR! Take me with you!

      xo >-)

  • Shelley says:

    Oh, for a dusty, all higgledy-piggledy, crammed full of books and perfume and funky vintage garden tools and some pottery maybe and some excellent music, recorded always but live on Thursdays…

    :)

    Have not had the fun of finding one of these in a long time. I have haunted Shiseido stores in the last few years, once I realized they didn’t just have cards and cheap jewelry and make up but also…perfume. Once, ONCE, I found Zen. Black Zen, the original. Ahhhhh.

    • Musette says:

      There was a Shiseido store up on Montrose! That’s the last place I found Black Zen, too – nearly 15 years ago. I scooted into a strip mall that advertised a Shiseido store – alas, it was shuttered.

      :-w

      xoox >-)

    • Furriner says:

      I thought I saw Black Zen at the Shiseido counter at Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights a while back… I was on the hunt for Basala, no luck. I did find a bottle of the after-shave though at the Shiseido store on Argyle, though you can get it online fairly easily.

      I did a Shiseido hunt yesterday here in Japan …. they have NOTHING! It’s weird. The only fragrance I saw was something called “Shiseido Man,” which isn’t available in the US, but dull. I found Tactics last year, though. I should go to Takashimaya….

  • SilviaFunkly says:

    I have actually dreamt several times of being in one of those fabled dusty perfume shops where everything is vintage and cheap as chips. Every time I think of it when I am awake, I find myself hyperventilating. It’s that bad. Never found one so far, although came close once when dear Donanicola took me to one close to hers where she had bought some vintage Mitsouko bath oil, which she kindly shared with me. But I don’t give up hope and if there is a chance, I’ll go and scout.

    I remember once walking into a promising little outlet in NYC and asking for L’Arte di Gucci. The Eastern European SA immediately changed tone and in a pusher-like voice asked me how much I was willing to pay for it and that it would be $500, was so surreal, not exactly the bargain I was looking for. Needless to say I walked out.

    • Musette says:

      😮

      (fanning herself)…Vintage Mitsouko Bath Oil???

      must. move. on..

      (pop!) okay, I’m back!

      Watch those dreams, Silvia, that way lies madness! ( I have them, too, so I should know 😉

      xo >-)

  • DinaC says:

    I live in March’s neck of the woods, too, and so far, Art with Flowers is the only indie scent shop that I’ve found. It’s an amazing conglomeration of home interiors shop, gift shop, florist shop, and perfume shop. There are throw pillows, vases, Buddha statues, candles, stationery, leather goods, and dozens of other categories of things all higgeldy-piggeldy shoulder-to shoulder with the perfumes and body products. Fortunately, the store has a good amount of floor space, so they can host a nice crowd when they have a special event. It’s like falling down the rabbit hole when I go in there, because I can easily spend an hour or more poking around looking at all the stuff. Only complaint? There are no old, vintage goodies to be found tucked away. Now that’s the kind of shop I’d like to find in Northern Virginia.

  • gator grad says:

    In our crappy mall in Gainesville FL, there’s a perfume kiosk that is pretty amazing. I don’t know the name of it (it has no sign) and ever since I got into perfume, I walked past it without even looking. On the top of the glass, out in the open, are all of these “non brand” perfumes that I’ve never heard of even now. I think of them as knock offs, but they don’t market them that way…

    But over Christmas break, I got a little too close and… what is that… IT IS! It’s a fb of YSL In Love Again. And omg… Lancome Cuir which I’ve been dying to try is right next to it. And three Creeds! And two Hermes! I could have died! All those long road trips to cities 5 hours away, and my mall had a little shop of wonder in the middle.

    My point: don’t overlook those kiosks! The independent ones are fabulous!

  • karin says:

    Great topic, Musette! None that I know of here in Maine, but when we were in Charleston, S.C., we stumbled onto a shop near the city center, on N. Market St. It was pretty crazy. Tiny shop with floor to ceiling perfumes. Plus, they had oils and mixed their own fragrances. It’s one of those shops that looks like it’s been there for years. Everything jumbled up, every inch of space taken. I inquired about a bottle of Habanita, but it was expensive compared to discounted prices on the web. Didn’t buy anything. If anyone knows that name of this shop, please post!

    • Musette says:

      Ooooh! That sounds divine! Hope someone sees and posts on this. I just looked – could it be Scents of Charleston? There’s another that sounds really promising: Oxford Perfume and Jewelry. I love when both are listed in the title – sounds jumbled and full of possibilities.

      xo >-)

      • karin says:

        That might be the name of it? Wish I could find a pic. I did a search as well, and didn’t want to guess. There’s actually more than one perfume shop in that area, but this is the one I remember.

        • KathyT says:

          The one I remember is in the Rainbow Market, but I can’t remember the name either. My brother used to get his Creed supply there, and they have wonderful scented soaps too. There is no apparent order to things, and you can hardly turn around without knocking into something. I stopped going in there during the summers once I had children for fear of having to buy the store because they all want to sample the perfumes like their mother.

  • Illdone says:

    Talking about such, could Louise please contact me at [email protected] ? (none of the email adresses are working).
    I promised to let her know something about a bottle..

    Love the picture and the atmosphere Musette! Indeed a perfumistas dream to find all of these hidden small shops.
    The price raising thing (à la tête du client) is funny, I have such a thing going on in and old factory shop where they sell antique fabrics and cloth – I often look for old lace and velvet to make historic costumes. When I describe what’s going to be made out of the fabric the owner starts running around and tells me – you need this and this, take half a meter of that to..And then he forgets to add it all up, just charges me the largest pieces. I think he likes me…;)

    • Musette says:

      Oh, how nice! You know, I think artisans and shopkeepers of Old Things are so thrilled to find ‘one of them’ that they just get dizzy with delight – and love to reward you for your appreciation. Before food became such a ‘thing’ I would have that experience occasionally with chefs and distributors. Alas, no more. Now they cringe to see yet another foodie coming…=((

      xoxo >-)

  • rosarita says:

    Oh, how I wish I had such a place here. I frequently lurk on the MUA nail board where they speak of “dusties” – old beauty shops or salons that have ancient bottles of nail polish that are covered in dust, where one can potentially find a legendary discontinued OPI color for a song. I don’t even have those here; I’ve checked, and while there is some dusty np, it’s just…dusty. To find such a place selling perfume…..how fab would that be!

    • Musette says:

      Baby, you’d be surprised where those shops turn up. Srsly. Sometimes they are fronted by the unlikeliest things (old dress shops)….for np, make sure you check ALL beauty shops when you go to other little towns (or small cities). I find great stuff in those places.

      xo >-)

  • Bradamante says:

    In Arnhem, Holland, there is the perfumery/apothecary ‘t Linnewiel (the Linen Wheel). The owners are lovely people, and really engaged in quality perfume. In their line-up, amongst others: Amouage, Bond New York, the exclusive line of Van Cleef and Arpels, Nobile 1942, etc. Alas, heir website is only in Dutch (and you can’t order online): http://www.linnewiel.nl/

    • Musette says:

      Wow sounds like a great store! I dated a Dutchman for years and learned just enough Dutch to get myself laughed at! =)) He and his family came over this past summer and the kids had a great time with my Dutch-mangling self! It’s probably just as well it not online-ordering, I would probably order a keg of pickles or something.

      xo >-)

  • tmp00 says:

    I so want to visit..

    • Musette says:

      Oh hush. You already have the HG of Indie Fabulosity. AND you have Roscoe’s. You want for nothing. [-(

      but you can come visit ‘me’ anytime, sweets! 😡

      xo >-)

  • koki2 says:

    Here is a very rare piece of Perfume Trivia about Geneva, Musette. Did you know that in the 1970s the owner of the Little Traveler, Sylvia Simon, used to spray her high-end womens’ clothing area with Mitsouko???? Sure enough, my mother’s new clothes came home in a box that smelled divine. I’ve kept the scent memory ever since then, but didn’t realize just what scent it was until many years later.

    I was back in Geneva for my mother’s memorial service 2 months ago and made a special trip to the Traveler just to see if it still smelled the same. Sadly, the Mitsouko was gone. Perhaps the tradition stopped when Mrs. Simon passed away.

    • Musette says:

      Oh! What a lovely tradition – as long as you love Mitsouko, as I do. I suspect those types of traditions are long-gone now; like dress boxes. And elevator operators in white gloves. Gloves, period, except for winter/protection.

      But what a lovely scent-memory of your mother! I love Geneva – I grew up on the North Shore and G is Lake Forest West for me.

      xo >-)

  • annie says:

    OOOOOO,I want to just curl up,& die in one of these places,with bottles surrounding me…Lord,this is heaven….old bookstores,is the closest I’ve come….close,but no cigar!….smooches:d