Art-Box.Store

“Monaco has an amazing arts scene, especially for such a small country,” says Kashka Kornelak. “There are so many galleries featuring all kind of artists, from contemporary and modern masters to emerging young talent. Plus, there are many art associations, the ballet, opera, theatre, philharmonic orchestra, the Grimaldi Forum with its concerts and grandiose exhibitions … honestly, wherever you in Monaco, there is art!”

For years, Kashka has run a company that manages UHNW families and real estate assets but her passion has always been for art.

“And so Art-Box.Store was born and is soon launching,” smiles cofounder and CEO Kashka. “This international platform will help artists gain visibility with a worldwide audience of art aficionados and buyers, giving them both a virtual and real presence where they can share and sell their art.”

No small mission, she aims to promote artists, assist with scholarships and grant applications, as well as facilitate participation in competitions and artistic events around the world. “We also want to work together to build a real artistic community.”

Part of Kashka’s vision is to provide artists with “concierge” attention, enabling them to enter a future virtual world of art, where access to multimedia exhibitions, shows, and materials related to art will be easier than before.

Before Valentine’s Day, she put on a 4-day show “All We Need Is Love” with Daniel Boeri and Gallery L’Entrepôt at 22 rue de Millo. “We had so many more visitors that we expected,” Kashka says. “The opening musical performance of artists from the Monaco International Performing Art Center, run by Claire Marsan-Amato, was beautiful. It made people nostalgic for the times we could simply enjoy the moments like this with a few friends.”

For Kashka, who has double Polish-French nationality, the show was a success with three sales, plus couple from their e-catalogue by people who visited the exhibition. “The challenge was with all sanitary measures in place and we still had difficulties to manage the crowd at the opening,” she admits.

Kashka Kornelak at ‘All We Need Is Love” exhibit.

For her third show, “My Art Goes Boom!” from March 6 to 11, Kashka is again partnering with Gallery L’Entrepôt. “Art is supposed to delight, surprise, sometimes shock but always awaken the senses,” enthuses Kashka. “And this show will be devoted to the explosion of creativity of our artists who express their emotions through their art making,”

Nîmes artist Joris Brantuas is at the origin of the project, promoting cultural inclusion and diversity in the world of art. Other exhibiting Monaco and French Riviera artists will include Jean Antoine Hierro, Manou Marzban, Nika Stanislavova, Anna Petrika, Golec&Golec, Edyta Sroczynska, Christine Franceschini, Sanna Bachmann, Bobsone and Dave Van Dorst.

“Each exhibit is accompanied by a multimedia catalogue presenting the exhibited works and artists. These catalogues are available to anyone interested in art and we send them to our individual clients and art lovers on a regular basis.”

Daniel Boeri, who owns L’Entrepôt and is a member of the National Counsel, shares the same vision of universal art without borders and creating an artists’ community of cultural exchange and mutual support. “His help is priceless,” says Kashka, who confesses she is a lover of the ballet.

In fact, when she’s not taking in the sea views from Starbucks by the Fairmont (and indulging in a piece of carrot cake), she can be found watching the Ballets de Monaco and her favourite Jean-Christophe Maillot creations like Abstract Life, Casse Noisette or Coppél-i.A.

Although Kashka moved to neighbouring France in 1983, she deeply admires Monaco for its ecological approach, security, international environment and many fascinating – “sometimes hidden” places. “I’m a BIG food lover so there are plenty of places that to go with friends, from top spots like Le Grill with its fantastic chicken and famous soufflé to my favourite place, Hirondelle in Thermes Marins because of their super healthy daily changing menus. I’ve been a member there for years.”

For Kashka Kornelak, “Covid has made time slow down for everybody and as we live outside of our comfort zones, we realise that nothing can be taken for granted. Personally, I had time to rest and rethink my life … and to start Art-Box.Store platform project.”

Stop by “My Art Goes Boom” at L’Entrepôt from March 6 to 11. Masks required.

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Green Coffee Monaco

Carina Luis Y Prado, Managing Director of Green Coffee Monaco.

Born in the largest coffee producing region in the world, it is no wonder Carina Luis Y Prado was attracted to work in the industry.

The Managing Director of Green Coffee Monaco was educated in the US and Europe and moved to Monaco in 2013. “I came to here to expose my children to this very International environment and also with the idea of exploring business opportunities. Obviously being of South American heritage, I have been exposed to coffee from an early age and have always had a passion for good coffee, as has my family,” says Carina Luis Y Prado.

The startup Green Coffee Monaco began with the idea of “an environmentally-friendly, high-quality coffee experience that was both organic and affordable.” To achieve this, the company focused on three main areas: first, they had to use organic coffee beans, mainly from South America, grown and collected using natural processes without any added chemicals. Second, the packaging materials and sealing processes, such as using biodegradable/compostable capsules, had to be environmentally friendly. And third, artificial flavour enhancers and preservatives had to be avoided in the production process.

“The quality of the beans is essential to obtain the best coffee result,” explains Carla. “This is why we only work with coffees classified as organic grands cru, fair-trade certified and harvested by hand for a selection of quality beans. Most of our products come from South America – Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia.”

The global coffee capsule market is competitive. According to a ResearchAndMarkets.com report, the market accounted for $8,327.19 million in 2019 and is expected to hit $14,062.20 million by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.0%.

The findings also showed that “the benefit of consuming coffee capsule is that the vacuum packing ensures hygiene and prevents external agents, such as oxygen, humidity, and heat, from entering inside.”

In 2018, according to British coffee capsule maker Halo, more than 400 Nespresso coffees were consumed every second but only 30% of their 12 billion capsules were recycled. (A 2020 Channel 4 documentary exposed the coffee giant to child labour at farms.)

Carina reveals, “There are 56 billion coffee capsules produced every year in the world and the material chosen is aluminium and plastic, materials which require 500 years to be absorbed. This represents a tremendous environmental impact on our planet with no sign of slowing any time soon.”

“On the other hand, the capsules from Green Coffee Monaco are 100% biodegradable and compostable, requiring only a few weeks to decompose naturally, with no additional process required, just throw them away and they decompose by themselves.”

Green Coffee Monaco uses a top-of-the-line organic grand cru selection of coffees and uses no added preservatives or flavour enhancers. And their coffee is cheaper than aluminium or plastic capsules – for a box of 10 capsules, Green Coffee Ristretto sells for €3.50 versus Nespresso Ristretto at €3.70.

“Conventional coffee is among the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world,” Carina states. “In the case of organic coffee, which accounts for 6.6% of the total world harvested coffee, there are no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals in growing or producing the coffee beans, which means cleaner beans, air, land and water. In other words, en fin, un café ecolo.”

In addition to 8 varieties of organic roasted coffee in biodegradable capsules, Green Coffee Monaco also sells 8 varieties of organic roasted coffee beans and ground coffee, which can be found in Monaco at Casino in the Port, La Vie Claire, Marché U, Spar Metropole, Carrefour City in Millefiori and, from April, Carrefour Monaco in Fontvieille, and at their “Capsule” boutique at CAP3000. You’ll also find their other products, such as organic green coffee beans for medicinal purposes and organic tea.

“We have also created a first of its kind product line of ‘fruit infusions with green coffee beans,’ a delicious hot drink preparation to replace tea,” announces Carina, adding, “Our immediate future plans target also the production of other beverages based on green coffee beans, such as our first ICE D-Tox beverage – a booster/detox beverage made with green coffee beans, lime, mint and other natural ingredients. We plan to produce several more flavours in the near future.”

Also available through their website are various GCM coffee machines for professional, office and home use.

“Of course, we have been impacted very much by Covid restrictions, like any other business, but especially our clients in the hotel and restaurant industry,” Carina shares.

“This is why we have invested in our website to reach our customers in this region directly but also anywhere in Europe. We strongly believe in our products and the contribution that we can make towards a cleaner environment while enjoying a high-quality coffee experience.”

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

A Cantina

David and Jeanne Rossi of A Cantina. Photo: Nancy Heslin

From a young age, David Rossi has been passionate about cooking and so it was no surprise that he studied four years at the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monaco (where you can lunch at the Cordon d’Or restaurant for €21) to focus on becoming a chef. “My interest in food is thanks to my Italian grandmother for whom I have nothing but culinary memories.”

The Monegasque opened A Cantina on October 26, 2020, having spent 12 years working in kitchens across the Principality, including the now-demolished Piedra Del Sol Mexican restaurant on rue du Portier and Pasta Palace in Galerie Park Palace, which became Valentin in 2013 and is now A Cantina.

“We seized an opportunity and after a long battle we were successful in opening A Cantina,” David explains, adding that they have a different clientele than Valentin, ranging from those working in the area to friends he grew up with to tourists passing by.

The 38-year-old had been trying to open his own restaurant for 13 years, a dream he has shared with his wife Jeanne, whom he met when they worked together way back at Pasta Palace.

“My first day of work at Pasta Palace in 2007 I saw David working in the kitchen and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” reminisces Jeanne, who grew up in Vallée de la Roya. “Eight months later we were together and we have now been married nine years.”

Above and beyond offering great service and bringing together friends and family over a meal, Jeanne says they hope the passion David channels into his dishes will evoke a childhood memory for their customers, a link to a wonderful emotion or convivial moment of yesteryear.

A Cantina’s menu is seasonal so changes every three months. “Our menu is simple but all of our products are fresh and seasonal so you won’t find tomatoes in December,” David assures. In addition to the 8 or 9 rotating dishes for the weekly menu (they are closed weekends), there is a plat du jour for €16, including a non-alcoholic beverage and coffee, or €20 if you want dessert also.

They also prepare tasty Apèro boxes (€18) which include hot (say, barbajuans) and cold (charcuterie) dishes that you can order before 4 pm (+377 93 50 60 00) for pick-up before 6.

In normal times, A Cantina will be open Monday to Friday from 7 am to 5 pm, with tapas evenings and wine tastings on Thursday and Friday. Currently with Covid, they can only serve lunch only from 11 am to 3 pm but by the end of the month they will be offering takeaway and delivery.

As the restaurant industry has suffered immeasurably from Covid restrictions over the past year, David Rossi says “it was now or never” in taking the leap to open A Cantina. “Covid teaches us to question ourselves and to push ourselves beyond our limits. There are six of us working here – including Sophie and Claire who we worked together with when it was Pasta Palace – and we are a true family, same boat, same fight!”

A Cantina
27 ave de la Costa
Galerie Park Palace

Food images courtesy of A Cantina.

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

APEM

Martine Ackermann, President of APEM, the Parent-Teacher Association of Monaco. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Founded in 1965, the Parent-Teacher Association of Monaco (Association des parents d’élèves de Monaco, APEM) represents the majority of 6,000 families who have children attending one of the country’s 10 French public schools and 2 private Catholic schools (see list below).

APEM is non-political association made up of volunteer parents of different nationalities and religions, residents and non-residents, acting as the link between parents and the schools with the Board of Education and government. Martine Ackermann has been president since 2018, voted in three consecutive years at the AGM held every October. 

While the association has its challenges every year – from increasing visibility so that parents understand that APEM is about more than book fairs and school snacks to finically helping families in difficulty for school trips – it goes without saying that the year 2020 presented a whole new ballgame.

“With the health pandemic last year, we have been approached massively by parents who have expressed their concerns,” explains Martine. “For example, we had to answer questions about wearing masks in class, online courses and the 2020 end of year Bac, which confinement completely derailed.” 

Martine reveals that concerns over the health protocol in place at schools has also been a big issue for parents. “We have discussed this with the Department of National Education as well as the government. And even though the situation is being handled very well, parents have legitimate fears. We are here to help them and make their voices heard.”

In a bid to drive membership and help local businesses during this difficult time, Martine has organised a project under the motto “APEM is committed to supporting local businesses.”

As she says, “The Covid crisis is a disaster for commerce, so APEM is partnering for free with local businesses and offering a 10% to 15% discount to our members when they present their valid membership card. This benefits both shops and our members, who very often are running a business themselves in Monaco.”

As president, Martine heads the Steering Committee, which includes two vice-presidents (Raffaella Olivieri and Penda Gebel), a treasurer, (Maria Contaldo), general secretary (Vanessa Erbaggio) and six additional members representing different schools for checks and balances. At the start of each school year, parents can volunteer as part of the General Committee.

“These branches of each school are key,” she states. “It’s the way they represent parents and manage activities in their schools that can give good visibility for the wider APEM.”

JOB ALERT
APEM is looking for a secretary who speaks French and some English
for a part-time CDI contract, Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am-1:30 pm. Flexible hours, minimum wage. Contact: martine007@libello.com

In a “normal” year, APEM attends various committees, like the National Education Committee and Scholarship Commission, where they participate in the allocation of grants for students. They also organise conferences, like the annual Language Travel Forum for parents looking to send their children on an internship at a school abroad (the forum has been postponed to February 2022.)

Up until Covid, one of the big issues APEM was quite involved with was the Catering Committee, discussing organic canteen options and less food waste (especially bread) with the National Education and caterers of the various menus offered to students.

They also work with a commission for children with learning difficulties, the DYS commission, the administrative commissions for the Pavillon Bosio Visual Arts School and the Rainier III Music Academy, the Energy Pact commission and others. 

“The commissions are used to transmit all the parents’ concerns and to offer solutions. We group together recurring questions and then work with the Department of National Education to get results – like reducing the weight of school bag and cutting down on homework during the holidays,” Martine asserts. “All information is confidential. We never give the names of parents who trust in us completely. We are here to defend the interests of students and parents, as well as represent them.”

Martine points out APEM measures progress by the number of new members from one year to the next. “The message to parents is that APEM is all of us – we are all one! Even if parents don’t have the time to get involved, they can join and we’ll represent them.”

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Before

Fred Bouazis of Before. Photos: Nancy Heslin

With ski lifts and restaurants on the slopes closed, Fred Bouazis has “brought the mountains to Monaco.”

The owner of Before in Port Hercules has teamed up with Le Coin Fromager to put on Raclette Wednesdays. “Raclette is an amicable meal you share with a group of friends and we have created a very cosy terrace with heaters and blankets to recreate that après-ski vibe,” says Fred.

The first two Raclette soirées have been completely booked – there’s a 70 person limit and it’s reservation only – and the New Year’s fête on Wednesday, December 30, only has a few tables left.

No surprise. Le Coin du Fromager at Marché de la Condamine needs no introduction and if Michel Poma’s extraordinary cheeses and charcuterie (he’s also providing all the material to Fred) don’t tempt you, the €35 price for all-you-can-eat, not including drinks, surely will.

A year ago, Fred Bouazis would never have imagined he’d be a restaurateur serving melted cheese dishes. Named one of “Les 100 qui font Monaco” in 2020 by l’Observateur de Monaco, the niçois has built his reputation in after-work bars. He opened Before in Nice and Isola (both are closed) before bringing the concept to Monaco in June 2010.

He’s been in the industry for 25 years – including as artistic director at Sea Lounge, Director at Blue Gin Bar at Monte Carlo Bay and a stint promoting events at Twiga. “I had the opportunity to bring the concept of a place to meet after work to Monaco. And a decade later, we have become part of daily life here,” says Fred.

Prior to Covid, Before functioned as a bar open from 6 pm to 2 am with live music, DJs, finger food and drinks – wine was the top seller, but lots of cocktails and champagne in winter– and had anywhere from 150 to 200 people a night.

While the bar in Nice was popular with 30 year olds, in Monaco the clientele is local and active, mostly in their 40s with disposable income. “It is very international, people working in yachting, property and banking. Year round we have a local base, residents and those working in Monaco, but in the summer we also have lots of tourists.”

Not last summer. With bars closed by decree, Fred decided to transform his after-work hotspot into a restaurant. “This year has been special. We were closed completely the first confinement like everyone else. It has been a physiologically difficult transition but you have to make an effort,” he explains.

“It was a huge adjustment for our chef and for our kitchen but our team has been terrific. We have had to invest in restaurant tables and chairs, among other things. The government played its role well, quickly offering financial aid for employees and assistance for a loan to refinance, and even rent relief. We have six employees now, we had to let a few go, but we are super satisfied and grateful with the government’s assistance.”

Before started by opening only at lunch – €15 plat du jour, a €19 daily suggestion with glass of wine and coffee – between noon and 3 pm. “Our loyal after-work regulars started coming for lunch and we have new clients. With each lunch we got better and better at serving Mediterranean dishes beyond finger food – daube with ravioli, curry, and even the new trend of kangaroo. For €25, you can eat very well.”

The restaurant added dinner service, averaging about 60 diners per service. For Fred, respecting the current Covid measures – hand sanitizing, wearing masks, mandatory distance between tables, among a list of other protocol – is taken very seriously as the eatery is subject to random inspections, like those over the past week that shut down Beef Bar, Planet Sushi in Port Hercules, Huit et demi and Brasserie de Monaco and Cantinetta Antinori.

“I don’t know if things will remain the same after Covid but there are certain work methods and opening hours that I will keep, like lunch service during the Yacht Show or Jumping.” One thing he does know is that restaurants in Monaco “are lucky” to be able to remain open during the epidemic while neighbours in France are closed. (In a bid to reduce the rising number of Covid cases in the Alpes-Maritimes, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi is trying to have the France-Monaco borders closed except to those French with work attestations.)

“The misfortune of Covid, which has confined us and deprived us of going to a bar to have a drink with friends, has made us question our lives and open new horizons that are good,” Fred reflects.

“We are running businesses with la bonne franquette and trying to make money by welcoming as many people as possible within the health protocol. And all I know is that, for now, I have a new profession.”

Open noon to 3 pm and 7 to 9:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday lunch.

Before
6 Route de la Piscine

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Sexy Tacos

Pepe Olivares and Paty Cortijo opened Sexy Tacos in 2016. Photo: Nancy Heslin. Food photos: Sexy Tacos.

Today Monaco celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day that the Blessed Mother Mary (not Jesus) was conceived and preserved from original sin all of her life.

Another Mary celebration will take place later this week. December 12 has been the national holiday in Mexico of Our Lady of Guadalupe since 1859. The date marks the story of the Virgin Mary who appeared to an indigenous Mexican, a peasant named Juan Diego, and twice asked him to build her a house on a hill. When he reported the story to the disbelieving local bishop, he was asked for proof of these apparitions.

Early on the morning of December 12, 1531, the dark-skinned lady appeared once more to ask Juan Diego to gather flowers at the top of the hill. This time he did as asked and discovered Castilian roses, typically not in season. The lady helped him arrange the flowers in his cloak, which he then presented as evidence. When the bishop opened the cloak, the roses fell out leaving a life-size image of the Virgin Mary on the inside. This icon became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

According to John Moran Gonzalez, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin told NBC, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become less of a religious symbol and more of a general cultural symbol: “Our Lady is seen as the champion of the underdog, of the Indian, of all those who lack power in society.”

For chef Pepe Olivares, this makes December 12 fête doubly significant, as it is also the day he opened his Mexican restaurant in Monaco in 2016.

“It was a coincidence but I believe it was a sign,” says Pepe, who will celebrate four years since the opening of Sexy Tacos this Saturday.

At age 29, Pepe left Puebla, his hometown southeast of Mexico City and known for its culinary history, to follow his passion for French cooking and discover new horizons.

He first went to Toronto, Canada – “a beautiful country but it is too cold – but left to thaw out in the warmer climate of Cancun, Mexico, where he stayed for a year.

In 2010, his plans to “learn everything about French culture and cuisine” got back on track when he moved to Cannes to study the language for a year. He also spent the next six years working in various kitchens, starting with Michelin star chef Marc Meneau in Burgundy and finishing at Nobu at the Fairmont Monte Carlo with Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.

“I worked at the Fairmont for five years and Nobu was like nothing else in Monaco. Watching how the Japanese culture operates, with its innovation and intelligence … there is no waste in the kitchen, anything left over is used for another recipe.”

His years at the Fairmont helped him adapt his “savoir faire à ma façon” to appeal to Europeans. “I learned something from every place I have worked, even from my job at Starbucks, during my studies in Cannes. I was impressed by service and the way you had to treat customers. Howard Schultz personalised coffee for everyone, and I knew I wanted to personalise my own restaurant.”

Encouraged by his French wife, Paty Cortijo, Pepe opened Sexy Tacos at 2 boulevard du Tenaoon on December 12, 2016.

“Every time I travelled, I tried to find Mexican food because I really missed it. But all I found was chili con carne and fajitas, which are not Mexican. So this was an opportunity to share not just my food, real Mexican dishes but also cocktails and music to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In our culture, when you have guests in your home, you do everything to make sure they are looked after and having a good time.”

Pepe has a different concept of what French people like. “In France, people are not used to eating with their fingers, and they use utensils even for pizza and hamburgers. In Mexico, we never use utensils for eating tacos and to be able to eat a taco well is sexy. There is a certain aesthetic, to eat without breaking the shell or have juice dripping down your chin. So we called the place Sexy Tacos.”

For six months, Pepe worked at Nobu and ran his restaurant for lunch service and also on his days off. “It was exhausting but it allowed me to see how the business would work. It is not the best location, but it let me know that people wanted this type of food.” The time came to focus solely on his restaurant.

Paty managed the restaurant (she still does the accounts) while Pepe cooked recipes passed down from his mother and grandmother, serving every dish à la minute. “Tacos are meant to be eaten straight away.” After three months, as word spread about the country’s only authentic Mexican food, they had to hire an extra person. Now he has three employees, having to let one person go due to Covid.

“Confinement was a disaster for us, as some of our products come from Mexico and it was complicated. We had to close for two and a half months and financially we were lost. Fortunately, the government offered some assistance but if we were in France, we would have had to close,” says Pepe who speaks Spanish, French and English (and is learning Italian).

He thought about shutting down and only offering delivery but as the pandemic continues, Pepe is concentrating on his restaurant and take away service. “We used to serve 40 people over two services and although now we have less, we have lots of people ordering takeaway. Everyone is happy.”

The menu features wheat tortillas and meat and vegetarian options, including veggie nachos hechos en casa (€15), chicken tostados (€17.50) and Taco de Cochinita Pibil – marinated pork, guacamole, corn tortilla, salad, habanero onion (€18.50). Or just go for it: Mole Poblano, a corn tortilla with chicken, lightly spiced chocolate sauce (€22).

Pepe admits he “really happy” to be in Monaco. “The French are not close to my culture, but I have been able to meet diverse people, which I like, so it feels like home.”

He also wanted to bring up his daughters in a safe and clean place. “It’s the same weather here as Mexico but we have the sea and mountains and … Europe! It’s hard to be away from my family and I miss them, especially as they couldn’t visit this summer to meet my new baby. But this is my place.”

À BOIRE? Sexy Tacos serves mostly Mexican wine (there are two French labels for sticklers) and, of course, tequila and mezcal. “Mexicans are drinking artisanal mezcal at the moment, served with grasshopper salt – that’s grilled grasshopper with salt, dried chile and lemon – and a slice of orange.” Whereas tequila can only be made with blue agave and produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco (and in some municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas), the smoky mezcal is made from some 30 varieties of agave.

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 am to 2 pm &  6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Delivery available through Mr Room Service.

Sexy Tacos
2 Boulevard du Tenao

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

DouxVillage Monaco

Pierre Billon and Sébastien Lambla of DouxVillage Monaco. Photos: Nancy Heslin

To add a little Christmas cheer this holiday season, I have been trying to launch a Secret Santa Monaco initiative that would both encourage people to support local businesses and add some festive community spirit in the year of ho-ho-hovid.   

I was pointed in the direction of DouxVillage Monaco, a new Amazon-like online marketplace in Monaco offering same day delivery for only €5, cofounded by Monegasques Pierre Billon and Sébastien Lambla. The site is scheduled to go live December 8.

After high school, buddies Pierre and Sébastien went their separate professional ways for over 20 years. Sébastien is a senior software architect specialised in agile project management and software development, who lived in London for fifteen years working in Big Data (McKinsey, WhenFresh), banking (Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan) and delivery startups (Just-Eat).

Pierre, a corporate finance and business strategy expert, started his career at the dawn of 4G technologies with Clearwire/Sprint in Europe and was an independent consultant in Germany for some eight years, helping small and medium businesses adapt their corporate strategies to face new challenges. “From managing 8-figure budgets to meeting with customers, the open-mindedness I learned in business abroad is something I hope to bring back with me in Monaco.”

They two entrepreneurs, both impressively fluent in English and Anglophone culture, happened to move back to the Principality around the same time a few years ago. “It was during Covid lockdown in March when we realised that shops in Monaco needed our help,” relates Pierre, who was Customer Experience Director at Monaco Telecom until last year.

“In big European cites online shopping is available but here there is nothing, and local stores and companies need more than short-term relief through a boost in online sales during the Covid-19 crisis,” explains the 38-year-old .

Sébastien, 39, is ensuring that the IT and logistics behind DouxVillage Monaco create a homogenous vendor and customer experience. “We are creating an omnichannel to benefit smaller players who don’t have the tools, knowledge or time to get started online. For the end consumer, this is an online platform where they can order any products they want, from the participating Monaco stores, for quick and easy same-day delivery in or around Monaco or for in-store pickup.”

Pierre is quick to assure, “There is no monthly or entry fee for the shops, and customers get same day delivery in Monaco for €5, even if they buy from multiple shops on DouxVillage.”

When Pierre mentions the €5 delivery fee for Monaco, I fall silent. This is Monaco, no one offers this type of service for so little.

“DouxVillage Monaco is grounded on our years of professional experience and sound business models. However, this idea stems from our hearts and supporting the community where we born,” Pierre admits. “Monaco is unique and local businesses need help.”

Sébastien agrees. “Living in London is a life-changing experience for anyone, let alone when you have grown up on the Cote d’Azur. The mix of cultures, people and nationalities I encountered there have given me more sensitivity to what building an ethical business means – to be a good local player, to help the community and to be open-minded to others. The Brits are much more entrepreneurial, and creating a business is always seen positively, something that is not always the case down here.”

For the moment, DouxVillage Monaco has 15 commerce on board. “All except two came to us after our brief social media campaign,” says Sébastien. “As expected, our model of not charging anything for joining the platform is reassuring – they pay a small commission if they sell, nothing if not – and many of them also like that we focus on local delivery as they don’t want to compete in price with the French or international market.”

Pierre adds, “Interestingly, we have a split of about 50/50 in terms of shop profiles – half of them always wanted to go online but never did, so they like that we take care of everything, and the other half are experienced online sellers with an individual online store. For them, they like that through us they can add a new sales and communication channel and reach new customers.”

After its launch on December 8, an expansion of DouxVillage – the name reflects the movement of consumers wanting to get back to an idea of community – is planned for 2021 to other European markets. “Working abroad taught me that everything is possible if you’re ready to do the work, no matter how big or small,” Pierre says.

“People will still go to shops in person but this is a good initiative to offer an alternative to Amazon by putting local Monaco stores online,” he insists.

I’ll let you know whether Secret Santa Monaco takes off but regardless, Sébastien Lambla and Pierre Billon are delivering a real cadeau to both businesses and shoppers with DouxVillage Monaco. And you can win prizes if you shop before Christmas.

DouxVillage Monaco
DouxVillage.mc

Can Anyone Stop Amazon?
Amazon has announced that this year’s holiday shopping period has been the biggest in its history. Although the e-tail giant didn’t provide a hard figure, Adobe Analytics reported that on Black Friday online spending jumped 22% this year to a record $9 billion while, according to Sensormatic Solutions, the number of shoppers physically going to stores dropped 52% compared with last year. Truist Securities on Wall Street predicts 42 cents of every dollar spent in the US during this holiday season will end up in Amazon’s coffers (up from 36 cents last year).

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Bury Monaco

Candice Divelec at Bury Monaco. Photos: Nancy Heslin

According to United Nations World Travel Organization, from January to June 2020, international travel arrivals dropped 65%, which translates into a loss of 440 million less passengers and $460 billion in export revenues from international tourism – that’s “five times the loss in international tourism receipts recorded” during the global financial crisis in 2009.

One person who understands all too well the impact of Covid travel restrictions is Candice Divelec, owner of Bury, the luggage shop in the Centre Commercial.

Candice took over the store in 2007 from her folks, who were one of the first businesses in the Fontvieille shopping mall when it opened in 1992.

“My parents were established in the area because they had five maroquinerie (leather bags and goods). At that time, the concept of a grande surface was new in Monaco and there was no real competition between commerce here, everyone had their own trade – shoes, clothing, watches. Now shoppers want to buy a little of everything in one store,” says Candice.

Bury is well known for its selection of quality luggage – Samsonite, American Tourister (which was bought by Samsonite) and the Belgian brand, David – and has a loyal clientele, both residents and commuters to Monaco. “I don’t see many of my regulars because they are working from home and only here once a week.”

Although Candice’s boutique has been the most impacted in the shopping centre due to the health pandemic, she remains positive and forward thinking, expanding her maroquinerie to offer items other than luggage and handbags. (She’s also worked on her website and social media presence.)

“People are not thinking about suitcases right now, and so I have to try and sell different things. But as an independent business, there is no wiggle room as I don’t have anyone that takes back my unsold stock,” she shares, adding, “I am grateful for the financial aid I have received from the government.”

Residents of the Principality are frequents travellers, for business and pleasure, but not this year, not even for school holidays. “It has been a catastrophe for me, a total lost of revenue as luggage makes up 60% of my activity,” explains Candice.

Candice had to close on March 16 for lockdown and when she reopened on May 4, she had a stock of suitcases and handbags from last season.

“I had black leather bags at a time when people were looking for a panier more suitable for the warmer weather. The collection changes every season, so I had to try and sell the bags in July on promo.”

She faced the same problem with a large stock of last-season suitcases. “I had no choice but to reduce prices,” she says. Samsonite has also been massively impacted, and have offered support as they try to liquidate stock.

Candice points out that one of the biggest reason customers buy direct from her is because she offers after sales service and repairs. “Our luggage is guaranteed from 2 to 10 years and you bring it back to the store if there’s a problem. If it is a wheel, we change it in the shop, if it is a more complex repair, then we send it back to Samsonite for you.”

She says people who buy the cheapest bag often have regret when it is broken after one flight. “The most recent Samsonite features the shock absorbing Roxkin. We can’t say a suitcase is unbreakable but this is as close as you can get.” The material “easily bounces back into shape on impact.”

“When buying a suitcase, the most important features are quality, material and weight – a good solid bag that is light. For example, the Samsonite Cosmolite is rigid but weights only 2 kilos (€400). But American Tourister offers a decent selection, and you can buy a good bag from the David line (€145).

Two top selling accessories (ideal for stocking stuffers) are the digital luggage scale (€22) and protective suitcase covers (€27). “Some have a little message and different colours to help identify your bag at the baggage claim carrousel,” says Candice.

She has had to reduce luggage stock to add more handbags and bring in jewellery made of eco-friendly inoxydable – her rings and bracelets (€15-€25) and necklaces, some up to €40, are bringing passers-by into the shop and each person is greeted with a warm hello by Candice.

“As I have huge competition Naf Naf and Minelli for handbags, I carry brands like Lancaster and Guess that are traditional and sell well, but this is Monaco where people like original things, so I also have original handbags by unique designers.

“I have tried to create a welcoming Bohemian ambience at Bury, so when you enter you feel like you are on a journey. Travel may not be for tomorrow, but there is no better time to buy suitcase at 40% off,” Candice Divelec smiles.

Open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 am to 7:30 pm

Bury Monaco
Centre Commerciale Fontvieille

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Les Pierres du Rocher

Serge Thomas at Les Pierres du Rocher. Photos: Nancy Heslin

Healing stones used to be thought of as something hippies wore around their necks but in recent years celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Adele (who uses crystals to reduce on-stage anxiety) have helped build the “near-gemstone” industry into a mainstream market worth more than $1 billion.

Although medically unproven, gemstones are widely believed to relieve stress and increase positive energy, amongst a long list of other health benefits, depending on the minerals. And during the current health pandemic, Millennials are especially turning to the power of metaphysics.

Labradorite, for example, is considered a spiritual and healing stone for people who tend to overwork. “This stone comes only from Madagascar,” says Serge Thomas, who opened Les Pierres du Rocher two years ago.

Described as a “hard worker,” “great guy” and “artist,” Serge is widely known in the local community even though he has always lived in France. “I was a pâtissière (pastry chef) and owned La Boule de Neige in La Turbie until I retired.”

Not quite ready for those golden years and wanting to maintain contact with people, Serge decided to open a business on 32 rue Felix Gastaldi in Monaco Ville. “This used to be a souvenir shop,” he says,” but I didn’t want to do that or become a métier de bouche (food service). I love nature and stones, and as stones are trendy these days, I opened Les Pierres du Rocher.”

His clientele is made up of both tourists and locals from Monaco. “Of course, we had to close for two months during confinement and we completely suffered. 60% to 70% of my business comes from tourists, but there are no tourists.”

Serge points to his bestseller, a wall of bracelets, costing between €9 to €50. “It is all about the quality of the stone, so the higher the grade, the more expensive. If it’s just for decoration (or costume jewellery) that’s fine, but it is better to buy a stone of quality,” he advises.

He shows me a fabulous Lithuanian natural amber necklace (€58). “Amber is fossilised resin that is washed out into the Baltic Sea,” explains Serge, “and many people don’t know this but it is very easy to make counterfeit amber.”

He laughs, “As a professional capable of knowing a good cake from a bad cake, I can also tell the quality of stone.”

Another hot in-store item, notably with spas currently shut down, is the €35 regenerating stone roller to reduce wrinkles, which another customer tells me “is very, very effective.”

“Minerals have a link with humans,” Serge says and his range of healing pieces come from around the world, from Madagascar to Peru, in every size you can imagine.

For Christmas, Serge, who happens to also be a talented ice sculptor, is selling wooden house-shaped advent calendars that you can fill how you wish (€80 to €90 everything included).

There is currently 20% off sale on everything in the store. You’ve heard of people bringing home sand from their beach vacation? This Christmas holiday in Monaco why not pick up a stone from the Rock?

Open daily 10:30 to 5:30

Les Pierres du Rocher
32 rue Felix Gastaldi, Monaco Ville

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Stars’n’Bars

Kate Powers of Stars’n’Bars. Photo: Nancy Heslin.

With American Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26, Good News Monaco is asking, in the year of Covid, what you are thankful for?

Kate Powers, the cofounder of Stars’n’Bars, shares, “I’m thankful for my family, my health, my faith and where I live. I also really appreciated the peace and quiet as well as the beauty of nature during confinement.”

Kate and her team are busy preparing for Stars’n’Bars annual traditional Thanksgiving lunch. “The French love this plat du jour – turkey, stuffing, corn bread, corn on the cob, creamed onions, with a side of homemade cranberry – all made from my mom’s and grandma’s recipes that I brought over from the States 31 years ago.”

The lunch, served from 11 am to 3 pm, is €19 or €24 with a drink and dessert (homemade pumpkin pie, apple pie and banana and ginger cake) but you need to reserve and if you want turkey with a view, make sure to ask for a table on StarDeck.

If you haven’t been to Stars’n’Bars for a while, you may be surprised. “Lockdown helped us wake up to necessary ecological changes that were more important than economical ones. However, we are now starting to see the positive results of both,” expresses Kate.

During the March to May confinement, Stars’n’Bars, like all restaurants in Monaco and France, was forced to close although Kate says that the staff of 60 were “quick to be supported” with financial assistance by the government. The team, which includes partner and manager Annette Anderson, stayed in touch by a WhatsApp group, brainstorming about new ideas for the eatery post-lockdown.

When the port side restaurant reopened on May 4, it was with a reduced menu focusing on local and organic ingredients. Gone were the Tex-Mex dishes that Stars’n’Bars has been known for since it opened in 1993, and, to the shock of many customers, Coca-Cola was also adiosed.

“We need to keep taking steps forward and raise awareness about wellness, whether its ours or the planet’s, and so we decided to cutback on industrial products that we import as much as possible,” explains Kate. “We have no industrial sodas—we cut out Coca-Cola and Sprite—and serve only organic colas made in Bordeaux.” (Fizz Bio’s cola, lime, orange, lemon and tonic sodas are made with organic brown cane sugar.)

“Some customers are upset that we stopped serving Coke and others get up and walk out when they see there is no longer Tex-Mex on the menu,” Kate admits. “I try to explain that most of the ingredients had to be imported and we are focusing on sourcing locally. It’s the same with Coke. When I tell people not to expect the taste of Coke with our organic soda, at first they are unsure but now they love it.”

The new menu focuses on quality not quantity – an aubergine burger for vegans, organic beef burgers, a temaki salad plus weekly suggestions, pasta dishes and daily specials (plat du jour ). “Our Caesar Salad is à la minute – chicken steamed and fresh bread croutons prepared right before serving.

“Honestly, we have had positive feedback that the menu is better than ever and there are a lot of new regulars returning several times a week.

Caesar Salad. Photo: SNB

Kate points out that anyone needing a fix of chili con carne, nachos or Asian ribs can email a suggestion to info@starsnbars.com to be considered as a weekly plat du jour.

Another new feature, Stars’n’Bars has collaborated with Dr François Seneca, a senior scientist at Centre Scientific Centre of Monaco next door, who has been making Kombucha for four years at home and is now using part of the Star Deck kitchen to produce the fermented drink. “We now have Kombucha pumps with different seasonal flavours, and you can buy a refillable decanter,” Kate remarks.

No surprise, the coffee is locally sourced from Monaco, the ice cream is locally sourced from Monaco and Menton and they now serve homemade jam made in Monaco by cofounder Didier Rubiolo. The popular Blue Coast beer is brewed in Nice.

“You know, after confinement, people couldn’t wait to eat out. You can see that some are still leery and only want to eat outside but that’s okay as we have lots of space between the terrace and three floors inside, including Star Deck where we’ve added plexiglass to open up the view.”

Lunchtime is super busy but as the restaurant can’t open until 7 pm with the current health measures in place, dinner service is slower. “We have had a pretty challenging year, especially now with the hours, but I feel blessed with what we can do in Monaco. Our staff is great when it comes to wearing masks and nobody has been sick. I wish we could open at 6 pm to cater to families and working people but we are lucky.”

Stars’n’Bars is only getting started on their ecological journey. “There will big changes in spring 2021,” Kate smiles. Although she remains tight-lipped on the matter, she hints that new technological, innovative, educational and fun ideas are in the makes.

“We realise how much people don’t like change but if we want to make a difference, we must change our habits. The planet can do without us but we can’t do without the planet,” says Kate Powers.

Today kicked off the 2nd Monegasque edition of the European Week
for Waste Reduction. Over the next nine days, more than
30 associations, government agencies, businesses and individuals
in Monaco will be supporting the campaign to reduce,
reuse and recycle waste. At Stars’n’Bars, zero waste activities
will be shown in the children’s playroom.

Open daily 11 am to 3 pm and 7 pm to 9:30 pm. Breakfast to go is also available.

Stars’n’Bars
6 Quai Antoine 1er

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco