Welcome to some great shops where they’ve got things just right! Shops that bring inspiration and plenty of soul to the city. Vice President of Ambiente Nicolette Naumann took us on a tour of her favourite stores in Frankfurt, where we got straight down to shopping mode with sweet treats, Scandinavian home design and outstanding gift ideas. Don’t miss these tips!
“Hygge has become the latest buzzword.”
“According to normal trend logic, Scandinavian design should be out of fashion by now. However, this emotional look continues to be a significant factor,” says Nicolette Naumann as she surveys Nordic design in the ‘Noord’ concept store. “I often come to this cosily stylish shop to find natural cosmetics and new food lines,” states Naumann as she fondles hand towels of traditional waffle weave that are making a big comeback. Owner Meike Fiedler-Herrmann is pleased with the location on Friedberger Landstrasse: “Many of our customers live in the Nordend district. They are looking for something individual that large department stores don’t offer and they value the tactile shopping experience. What’s more, Scandinavian design is so wonderful for the home environment.
Everything is pleasing – the straight lines, the tangibly handmade elements, the natural materials, such as wood, copper and cork, as well as raffia and rattan for springtime.” Her shop window is an effective advertisement. Having opened two years ago, the store has acted as a magnet and attracted other cool shops and cafés to the district. We asked Ms Naumann if Frankfurt is big enough for more stores with Scandi brands? She nods: “Of course, the right clientele for this sort of homely look is here. And they enjoy shopping on Saturdays in their own district, combined with a break for brunch or a stroll through the market. I live in Nordend myself and often drop into ‘Noord’, which embodies the new buzzword ‘hygge’ – Danish for ‘cosy’.”
Tea in the city
A few minutes’ walk further on we enter the completely different world of ‘Phoenix Tea’. Just as in a traditional Chinese teahouse, the wood-panelled shop has a seated area where you can drink tea and try out home-made Asian delicacies. Superior specialty teas from Japan and Taiwan sit in opaque containers. And there is an equally diverse array of high-quality tea bowls and cast-iron pots, which shimmer like exotic works of art on the shelves. Hand-painted with graphic patterns, the small ceramic bowls are comfortable to hold even when filled with hot liquid. Everything that belongs to the classic tea ceremony is served in traditional style in this oasis of tranquillity. The green tea comes with a homemade tea cake and we caress one of the little fish figurines on display that we are sure would like to swim home with us. Don’t koi carp stand for longevity? They are certainly bringers of good luck. “The tea salon has become a popular neighbourhood meeting place. I arrange to meet friends here and drink and buy high-quality teas,” says tea aficionado Nicolette Naumann. When the Vietnamese-Chinese family business opened nine years ago, many people shook their heads. Could a teahouse work on the busy Friedberger Landstrasse? It certainly could! The “Salon de Thé” quickly made its mark as a restful place of retreat for trend-conscious Nordend residents. And the salon has a sophisticated companion. Right next door is the Phoenix flower shop, famous throughout Frankfurt for its floral bouquets. The two shops are an ideally matched alliance in the hands of three creative sisters who pay close attention to current trends.
Ambiente is therefore a must-visit event for salon owner Kim Yen Thai: “We serve a specific niche and supply pressed cakes of pu-erh tea that are appreciated by connoisseurs in the same way as fine wine. At the fair we find top-range tea services and pots that are normally only to be found in their countries of origin.” Nicolette Naumann knows that the residents of Frankfurt don’t just love their coffee: “People who travel a lot abroad tend to drink tea and prefer a premium quality product. When it comes to tea, there is a great deal of scope for growth here in Germany, although the trend is certainly gaining momentum. This is evident at Ambiente with more kettles with temperature controls on show this year. Good quality tea cannot stand boiling water.” At this the tea-lover puts a delicate matcha bowl back on the shelf with a heavy heart and confesses: “I have a real weakness for tea bowls. I have countless bowls from China and Japan, they fit perfectly with my Asian-inspired vintage interior design. We don’t have a couch at home. Instead we sit on Chinese wooden chairs without upholstery that are surprisingly comfortable.”
We could all do with a bit of kitsch
“Children’s birthdays!”, exclaims Nicolette Naumann as she explains the attraction of the “Tía Emma” (Aunt Emma) store near the Konstablerwache square in central Frankfurt. The shop not only offers a sugar-sweet mix of toys, baby rattles and charming little goodies, but also a mind-boggling selection of ‘adult’ home accessories, candy-coloured individual items and on-trend stationery labels from London, Paris and the USA. “Our customers are well informed through international blogs. We are therefore spurred on by the need to continually create new inspirations,” say owners Wiebke Kress-Ochmann and Rosaria Messina.
This district – urban and rough around the edges – has won a place in their hearts. And the people here, as well as visitors from near and far love this buzzingly successful shop. “At Tía Emma I’m always tempted to make an impulse buy,” says a smiling Nicolette Naumann. “Gifts for children who come to visit us or something quirky for me. The mix of shop and cafe is wonderful. There are international design magazines on the tables and the Australian fashion magazine Frankie makes the visit an even greater pleasure,” she enthuses. Colourful, garish, kitsch … “It’s not difficult to create a reduced, design-oriented store. Making high-quality kitsch is the hardest thing to do.”
The Danes are coming
“We only have eight suppliers. That’s enough. With this close collaboration it is easier to satisfy special requirements and orders,” says Goran Djukic, owner of “Liebesdienste Home” on the Oeder Weg. Here they have specialised in Danish design – young labels and established brands from Denmark demonstrate typically Nordic everyday design. Decorative objects that look good in the office, soft textiles and small items of furniture radiate a sense of relaxed ethno-flair combined with industrial charm and a superior handmade look. And what makes the 90 m2 floor area particularly attractive is that accessories such as linen sheets and lamps are integrated on tables and shelves as they would be at home. The store simply teems with moods and inspirations.
Metal is much in evidence: “It must have a slightly matt finish. Often a sense of luxury is created by the surface treatment.” Goran Djukic enthusiastically shows off his latest arrival – hand-woven rugs from recycled PET bottles. “Feel it,” he says. Wow, it’s as soft as wool. “The future is in the niche,” states Nicolette Naumann. “For me, ‘Liebesdienste’ is a typical example of a newly emerging type of shop – a concept store where you find things that belong in your personal environment – from small items of furniture to foodstuffs. The niche is the future.”
Women buy, men give
The tour now took us to Bockenheim and one of Frankfurt’s first concept stores. The “Frauenbetriebe” (women’s enterprises) shop started up 28 years ago in busy Leipziger Strasse. Originally, the store only carried one-off items and products made by women. Owner Renate Wegner-Koch knows what her customers want, whether clothes, hats, handbags or unusual fashion jewellery. Fashion expert Wegner-Koch explains the concept: “We are a small department store for women, but men come to us too to find presents.”
As we wander through the store, we find plenty of lovely things that consciously make a statement – the colourful paper wristwatches particularly attracted us. The owner discovered them at Ambiente – and it was the same with the two-colour reading glasses that only a small number of shops currently stock. “Retailers should visit at least two trade fairs regularly,” is Nicolette Naumann’s recommendation for keeping up with the latest trends. A clever ‘ping pong’ effect contributes to the business success of the store as it shares the large sales floor with another shop selling sofas, garden furniture and home accessories. “People often think that we are a joint business and we benefit from the curiosity of each other’s customers.”
Everything for your next trip
Jan Unnewehr is a flight attendant body and soul. Many of the useful, unusual and curious things that this native of Frankfurt came across in his job were transported twelve years ago to his shop ‘Gate05’ at Merianplatz. Here you’ll find not only handbags, toiletry bags and suitcases, but also – “the latest thing in Asia” – facial masks made from snail secretions. We are in a paradise for frequent travellers and people looking for a gift that no-one else is likely to have.
Travel bags for wrinkle-free shirts, pink sleeping masks that put no pressure on the eyes and car air fresheners in the shape of unicorns. This mix is awesome – and deliberately a touch crazy. We gaze in wonder around this travel shop, staffed almost entirely by flight attendants. Can they not make do with just one job? No, it isn’t that. Jan simply does not want to give up his work with the airline. He enjoys travelling the world too much. Something that Nicolette Naumann always has in mind when looking at owner-run concept stores: “Three things interest me. The emotional aspect, the design orientation and the economics. One doesn’t work without the others.”
Have these tips from Nicolette Naumann aroused your curiosity? The best shops are often so close at hand – just around the corner or in the next town. After this tour of Frankfurt, our shopping heart is beating strongly and in our minds our shopping bags are already full to bursting with beautiful things. We’ll be coming back!