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Mixing tea and books in Paris.

A rainy morning in Paris with some unexpected free time between meetings led me recently by my curious nose to the Mayet in the 6th arrondissement. That's where you can locate Tea and Tattered Pages, which I had heard ranks as one of the French capital's more unusual shops.

The reputation is deserved. Tea And Tattered Pages would be an unusual sort of establishment even in Oxford or Berkeley, but for it to be found within five minutes walk from the Montparnasse station is astonishing. Furthermore, it can be stated that if you're pining to find a good book in English and then wile away an hour over a pot of tea and a homemade muffin, this store will be your bit of heaven right in the very heart of Paris.

The storefront itself looks like something from a private dream world - floral print curtains draping the top of large double windows set in a black and white harlequin facade; the windows themselves a jumbled display of designer china and tablewear, art books and novels, quilts and tea mugs. The message is clear - Come on in and make yourself at home.

Once inside and you find that the windows have spoken the truth. For the first-time customer, Tea And Tattered Pages is an adventure and it's fun to watch their faces as they take it in. Up front are the books, from floor to ceiling and then trailing off in profusion to a basement that one later learns is also crammed with volumes. This bookcase covers the range of human thought and desire, here at your fingertips are more than 10,000 titles, all used, all in English.

Pulling you to the back of the main floor, however, is the tea room. There you can have a talk, off hours at least, when she can stop for a few minutes to sit, with Kristi Chavane de Dalaussy, bibliophile, tea lover, baker, and store owner. Kristi, one learns, is a Californian, former New York career woman, now married to a Frenchman. She opened Tea And Tattered Pages three years ago.

"I came to Paris and saw right away that there was a market for used English language books, for French, British, and American clientele," explains Kristi. "All one could find then were extremely expensive new books in English and only in the fashionable bookstores. And as for a homey place to enjoy a cup of good tea - forget it."

With Tea And Tattered Pages, if Kristi aimed for coziness, she got it. The tearoom seats 14 maximum in true intimacy. The floral print patterns are here repeated from the front windows, and again the walls are a friendly confusion of fine tea accessories, quilts and books. For stocking the accessories, Kristi attends the gift show in New York every August. The tearoom itself is unabashedly feminine (and American) but in a light and motherly way that's bound to make even the most defensive male relax. Then too, the mountains of books waiting in armreach just beyond the tables play a heavyweight counterpart.

The tea menu is limited - too much so, unfortunately. Actually, this is the store's weak point. Tea And Tattered Pages offers only a Lapsang Souchong as a bulk tea, and then a Darjeeling, Ceylon and Earl Grey in tea bags. Along with a decaffeinated tea, the store serves such herbal teas as mint, verbane, linden, and Mandarin. Homemade muffins, cookies and cakes, along with such American cultural totems as root beer, round out the offering. Coffee can be had too, made on a Krupp's home espresso unit (using Lavazza Club).

Kristi has come to realize that the tea range needs strengthening, but there she's been in need of a good adviser - and supplier. Despite its considerable success in customer traffic - Tea And Tattered Pages sees a steady stream of clients six days a week, from 11 to 7, and is so packed on Saturday's that Kristi has to monitor for overcrowding and needs extra help for the rush - the store ought to show a better return.

To remedy this, Kristi is trying new store hours for the summer, will begin offering a limited selection of new, unused books, and is trying to focus on getting a higher margin on sales in the tearoom and for accessories. Regarding tea and accessories, she sees that higher value will earn price increases but then too she has limited seating capacity and her clientele is truly a mixed salad - about 45% of the people buying in the tearoom are French, 35% of the book buyers are French. The others are mainly American and British. The French customers tend to be upperclass, the Americans are usually students with limited spending on their minds, the British run the range from top to bottom. True, given this sophisticated offering of tea origins, and as retail too for take-home, would begin to help on returns.

So much for criticism - an entire section of which can be located on a shelf in the basement of Tea And Tattered Pages. For now, sip the Lapsang Souchong - which is good enough - and thumb through the first chapter of the book you've just bought. Listen to the Mozart and wait for the rain to stop.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:On the Continent with Jonathan Bell; Tea and Tattered Pages used book store serves tea
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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