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My French Life: The Treasure Trove Brocante of Pas-de-Calais

 Antiquities France

On a country road, in a tranquil little village called Sempy, surrounded by fields and woods is a surprising sight. An incredible treasure trove of a shop called JL Coquet Meubles Brocante.

Those in the know love this amazing antiques and second hand bric-a-brac warehouse – and warehouse it is covering a full 1300 m² of display space and packed to the rafters with all manner of wonderful items.

Customers come from near and far – from the local Pas-de-Calais area and from Belgium, Britain, Holland and as far as Australia – so great is the lure of the hidden bargains and booty that lies within.

Antiquities France

You never know what you’re going to find when you go through the unassuming glass door – retro, antique and modern pieces all together. Furniture – from grand armoires to snooker tables, marble top console tables to dressers, a fabulous selection of chairs. Oil lamps, agricultural lampshades – huge metal barn lamp shades on thick chains and chandeliers galore. Books, gramophones, musical instruments and records – recently they had a huge haul of 19th century music box sheets some of them still in their tubes – alas no music box to go with them.  We found a trunk of French school books from the early 20th Century – well-thumbed Victor Hugo tales but in amazing condition. There are ornaments, swords, 100 year old tennis rackets, kitchenalia, dinner services, stuffed animals, hair salon hoods from the 1960s and all manner of weird and wonderful items.

The stock changes rapidly, the third generation owners of the store, the family Coquet get much of their stock from house clearance work “from cellar to attic” – as everyone knows, always the best source of second hand goods. They have a passion for their jobs and their policy is to sell at reasonable prices, they like to keep the stock moving and it’s rare that I’ve visited and not found something to re-love in my own home.

The shop was previously a coffee shop which also sold hosiery and clothing but in the 1960s the family changed tack to run it as a brocante. The space is also home to a waterbed company and a heating and energy company.

The family have made some unusual finds over the years – six gas pumps from the 1940s in perfect condition, a bag of Louis d’Or (gold coins) hidden in a cupboard, gnomes in their original packaging made by the famous Desvres potteries in the 1930s. Sometimes they come across items which confuse even them, use and purpose unknown – but it all goes into the store and on the shelves, walls, floor, landing – every inch of space filled with goods.

It is the sort of store you need to set aside time to browse, climb in amongst the goods, ask questions of the very helpful owners if you are looking for something in particular.

Located at 17, Rue Principale 62170 Sempy (10 minutes’ drive from Montreuil-sur-Mer). They are closed in the morning and open from 14.00 to 19.00 Tuesday to Sunday, but check their website before travelling to make sure: http://www.meubles-coquet-sempy.fr/

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