Wander down Jumeirah Street (calloquially known as Beach Road) past the bougainvillea-strewn villas and the low-slung shopping malls and you will come across something rather different. Located at number 102, in a pretty, one-storey converted villa, is Comptoir 102, part furniture store, part clothes store, part beauty store, part café. It’s relaxed, it’s chic, it’s original, and it’s become something of a sensation since it opened its doors in 2012.
Set up by two French expats, Alexandra de Montaudouin and Emma Sawko, the brand has quickly become a favourite for those who like their food – and their homeware – made the natural way. Despite the store initially only selling furniture, it has become more known for its café and its constantly revolving menu. It was, like most successful entrepreneurial endeavours, set up to solve a need. “After I came to Dubai from New York, I was looking for a one-stop shop to do my shopping, whether that be clothes, jewellry, beauty products or food,” Sawko says. “In 2012 it was a challenge to find organic products, let alone a store dedicated to organic ranges. Eventually we decided to fill that gap.”
Filled with artwork, objects, furniture, fashion and beauty products, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of carefully curated products, all of which reflect the sensibilities of Comptoir’s owners. Take Raw, for example, their range of own brand jewellery. Created by designer Mathilde Danglade, the collection features intricate, eye-catching designs using precious metals, precious and semi-precious stones that perfectly reflect the Comptoir 102 ethos.
That ethos is also reflected in the space the women chose to call home. “We wanted to open it in a villa. If you are in a villa, you have to have a few different things on offer, so we offer food, interior design, jewellery, and fashion. We have to be a destination and offer as many things as possible,” Emma says.
Both women have travelled extensively and picked up ideas along the way. “We saw places in different cities, in New York, in Paris, but we did not see the same in Dubai – maybe it’s a more European thing: somewhere to eat, to relax and to shop under one roof,” says Emma.
The biggest challenge was finding the right villa, and then, dealing with the reams of red tape that engulf any new business. “We are so different that it was difficult for the municipality to understand where to put us,” says Alexandra. “They told us that we should not sell food and sofas together that it would not work,” adds Emma. “When they came and saw the cement floor they thought it was not finished.” They can look back now and laugh, for the hard work has paid off.
It helps that the ethos the brand lives by has become increasingly popular, both in Dubai and worldwide. “We evolved thanks to the growing demand for more natural products,” says Emma. “Basically less bling and fast food, and more low key luxury fashion and slow food. From the very beginning the focus was on the healthy café, furniture and jewellry, but very soon after we realised there was a gap in the fashion scene and therefore decided to introduce this into the concept store. In 2017 we opened a dedicated Beauty corner, offering only clean, organic, natural and sustainable beauty products. We’re talking ditching plastic, eschewing toxic chemicals and supporting sustainably-sourced, plant-derived products; brands that care both for you and the environment.”
That is reflected in the kitchen where they use ‘age old techniques.’ “These techniques are mostly abandoned today as they are so time consuming,” says Emma. “Things like pre-soaking, fermenting, cooking at low temperature, steaming and dehydrating.”
The brand is looking to the future as well, having launched an online store in December last year. “With Dubai being a stopover for many tourists, it was only natural to bring Comptoir 102 closer to those who visited the store in Dubai,” says Emma. In a region often dominated by identikit malls and identikit products, Comptoir 102 is a breath of fresh air. Conceived with love and created with care, it’s a slice of home.
Three to Try
Buckwheat and Millet Raw Chocolate Porridge
Start the day in the right manner with this frightfully healthy concoction. It con-sists of gluten free rolled oats, almond milk, raw cacao powder topped with blackberries and mint.
A mix of dates, banana, almond milk, raw cacao, almond nuts and cinna-mon, this supposedly helps skin and hair health and enhances brain fun-ction. Oh, and it tastes amazing.
These slices of heaven feature organic halloumi, tomato, cucumber, radish, coriander, black olives, spring onion, homemade pesto, almond nuts, sun-flower seeds, pumpkin seeds and gomasio all on homemade organic bread.
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