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The French Quarter

Celebrate Bastille Day in Style

Celebrate Bastille Day in San Francisco’s very own French Quarter -- corner, that is -- on the corner of Clement between 3rd and Arguello in the Richmond. For today only, custom leather work boutique April in Paris is offering its first ever 10% discount on all leather merchandise in the store. Today and through the weekend, French home décor boutique Peche Mignon and baby/children’s boutique Jean et Marie will be offering clearance sales. Joining in the celebration for today only, renowned French restaurant Clementine is offering three dinner specials and a complimentary glass of champagne with order of one of the specials.

The proprietors of these businesses are presenting you with a great excuse to pay this little corner of the Richmond a visit. At April in Paris, the 10% discount presents an attractive opportunity to snag that popular toothpick case in colorful leathers featured by Architectural Digest a few months ago -- “I can’t keep them in stock,” said store owner and crafter of all the items in the store Beatrice Amblard.

Amblard received her training through Hermes in Paris and was transferred from their Parisian store to the San Francisco branch in 1997. In 2000, she opened April in Paris, specializing in custom leather goods. Today, the biggest trend Amblard sees is in women’s handbags; she makes custom handbags so her customers can specify the exact features and dimensions they want. Larger handbags are in vogue these days. Her calf bags will set you back on average $2500, and $5000 for alligator. Prices vary with style and size, but all are one of a kind.

Wallets are also popular in Amblar’s boutique. They start at $195 and can go up to $2500 for an alligator women’s wallet. Other handmade accessories include belts (—$425 for a calf belt with silver buckle to $2200 for an alligator belt with a18kt gold buckle). Ambler crafts all her items with centuries-old techniques. Credit card cases and glasses cases round out her product offering and you can find items priced anywhere from $95 to $5500. If this is out of your budget, stop by for the accordian music or to simply watch a master leather artisan at work.

Jean et Marie offers high-end French clothing, toys, bedding and more for infants and children up to 8 years of age. The brands available here -- Petit Bateau, Jean Bourget, Catimini, Mon Reve, Clayeaux -- to name a few, offer, as store manager Richard Silva puts it, “kids’ clothes with a high fashion sense.” According to Silva, spring and summer fashions tend to bear more modest costs than fall/winter fashions due to less material; you can purchase an entire ensemble now that makes a statement for $50 and up.

Petit Bateau’s onesies for newborns run upwards of $18. Lelli Kelly-branded beaded sneakers in vibrant colors attract kids who have been known to drag their parents into the shop to try on a pair, said Silva. For toys, the Kaloo-branded plush toys that come in hatboxes adorned with satin bows are the current hot seller and make wonderful gifts. Other unique toy offerings include Corolle dolls scented vanilla or chocolate.

In the bedding department, the company Cambrass makes all products to order, ranging from bed linens to the actual basinet or crib. David Fusseneger blankets are available in an array of darling designs. Current best-selling polka-dot patterned blankets are priced from $28. Jean et Marie also stocks mobiles made in Denmark that range in price from $21 to $48.

Opening just last October, Diane Valranges’ décor store Peche Mignon is the newest kid on the French block. Valranges chooses only authentic and unique French imports from different regions of France. For Bastille day, many tablewares, kitchen accessories and home accents are marked down 50-70%. Don’t miss the complimentary French pastries and accordion player. A representative from Alliance France will also be on hand to provide information regarding French classes and cultural programs. Peche Mignon’s special store hours for Bastille Day mean the boutique is open today and tomorrow 10am-8pm.

All tuckered out from shopping? Treat yourself to some classic French fare at Clementine. Chef Didier Labbe will be preparing three specials – the popular Boeuf Bourguignon (classic French beef stew), the Charcuterie plate (assorted house-made hams and sausages), and a dessert plate. The restaurant is only open for dinner and reservations are encouraged though there is also bar seating.

This year marks the first time these French businesses have come together to celebrate Bastille Day – the national French holiday that marked the beginning of the revolution and symbolizes the birth of the Republic. This holiday takes place on July 14 of every year. Participating businesses will be marked with red, white and blue balloons.