In the Spring of 1987, two recent college graduates, who had brought wares from Provence to the brocantes of NYC for more than a year, decided to open a little store on the corner of West 4th and Bank Streets in the West Village. The space had just been renovated, and when a ‘For Rent’ sign appeared in the window, Claude-Noëlle ran the crazy idea by William, “I’m tired of the antique show schlepping. Should we?” He said, “Sure!” Two months later, Le Fanion opened its doors.
Still run by the same yet not-so-young-anymore owners, William and Claude-Noëlle, and shining as brightly as ever, Le Fanion turns 30 years old this Spring and continues to offer treasures from the South of France.
Back in the 1980s, people moved to the Village to be around unique stores like Le Fanion, to hang out in cafés and talk about art or literature, to stroll along Bleecker Street and buy vintage clothes, or to shop at Johnny Jupiter for a unique little something. You couldn’t find stores like these anywhere but in the Village. They were the true expressions of their owners’ personalities, and a means of creating a sustainable life for people like Claude-Noëlle and William, who had fallen in love with the neighborhood.
The shops opened late because that’s how people lived in the neighborhood. At 9 a.m. they would head to a coffee shop for breakfast and an early morning artsy talk. Most of the people in the West Village were, in someway or another, involved in the arts; there were: journalists, writers, dancers, actors, musicians, and painters. The two Le Fanion owners are still modest West Village residents; they get around by foot, rollerblades, or bicycles. They’ve kept up with the bohemian style that seduced them 30 (or more!) years ago.
Over the years, Le Fanion hosted some wild Bastille Day parties with the help of Everett Quinton and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and with Laurent, a dynamic young French student who brought 80 troubadours from Provence to dance at Le Fanion’s Fête! Paloma Picasso once visited and bought cracked pots that she “broke” into shards; she soaked them with her new perfume and gave them out as testers. People still ask about the Annual Le Fanion Flea Market throughout the year. It is a festive occasion that owners and customers look forward to—a chance to “visit,” to catch up on what happened during the year, to reminisce, or to show photographs of grown children or newly-adopted pets!
The neighborhood has changed a great deal. Most stores and restaurants from the 1980s are long gone. Kids have grown up and become customers. Old-time customers have moved—some to unreachable spheres. Suppliers and potters have retired or passed away.
Le Fanion has remained, in a consistent and somewhat subdued way during all these years, a steady ambassador of the lifestyle of Southern France. At this very special corner in the West Village, Claude-Noëlle and William continue the neighborhood tradition—opening up a little later than the rest of the City, maintaining relationships with neighbors, and bringing the warmth and sunshine of Southern France. “We feel both proud and honored to be such an integral part of the Village, and to have played a part in this historical neighborhood which has been home to so many famous and less-famous characters.”