One of the many special experiences living in Paris was getting to know, and in a way grow up with, the team at the restaurant Spring. A small kitchen putting out a simple dinner nightly. Suddenly they are one of the most heralded and internationally acclaimed restaurants in Paris. While becoming the NYT's Paris poster-children is great for them what I really loved how they became part of the culture of their little nighbourhood as told by this video.
Lots of little shops I frequented to and from the Spring boutique or waiting for someone to join for a glass of wine. The ancient presse guy mostly. Stirs my nostalgia for his nostalgia. I'd explore this neighbourhood often with the uninhibited spirit of curiosity an expat in Paris becomes endlessly adicted to.
One of the reasons I loved living in Paris was studying first hand the fabrics of rich and deep communities. Understand what makes a real community from people that have loved and hated each other for centuries. Living myself as part of a small multi block neighbourhood where inhabitants, businesses, local government (even for my sub, sub, micro, sub region of Paris), community organizations, unions, busybodies, the three homeless people, my barber, the team of youths who hanging out late night at the local Place St. Lazarre, prefecture police, the weekend CRS riot police visits and our street cleaners served a inter-related and mutually respected (with continuous paradoxical distrusted) community.
Mostly, I loved seeing how an individual business seeped into the fabric of the immediate neighbourhood. Most businesses in the developed world have become little more than the immediate square footage of their retail outlet and maybe a bit of a contrived "community" activities department to help "strengthen bonds" with local community through a few activities outlined in the binder from head office.
One day I will open a retail entity but I am not too sure exactly what it will sell. I'm actually not too worried about "what" just yet. What I observed, noted and lived in Paris was individual businesses as cultural entities - that is much more interesting. Proprietors whose existence seeps beyond the walls of a lease and deep into the pores of the local neighbourhood and more deeply into the fields, factories and workshops of the producers.
A great business strengthens the community every day through what it does as a mainline pursuit driven by the humans behind it.
I learned a lot about this by getting to know the team at the restaurant Spring. Though they suddenly have become THE restaurant in town it is actually a very simple place. You just come, sit down and have dinner. No menu, no fuss, just brilliantly aligned to the seasons and what intrigues the chef Daniel at any given moment or a surprise dropped off by a local supplier. Better, go the the wine boutique for a great recommendation from 8€ to a modest mortgage. It's all very real without being REALtm - without the obligatory chalkboard and heritage furniture, vintage tea spoons, typwriter in the window or irnonic anything.