Sunday, 22 December 2013

Oh, "Vienna": Olfactoria - and Val the Cookie Queen - travel to Stafford...in spirit at least!


While I was up in Scotland visiting my brother and sister-in-law this weekend, I spied a Facebook status update posted on my wall by my good friend - and perfumista protege-in-progress - Clare:

"Making a rare visit to the Big Town (Stafford).  When did we get a Guerlain shop?"

To which my instant and feverishly excited response was:

"Good grief.  Not JUST Guerlain, surely?  With the Paris Exclusives and everything?"

Clare let my mischievous riposte die a natural death, replying:

"Guerlain, La Perla and Wolford."

At this point our mutual friend Nicola chipped in, making the very understandable point:

"I think you must have stumbled into a different town, Clare...easily done."

But no, we do have a new, 'Guerlain-forward' perfumery: in Crabbery Street, on the site of a failed cake shop, and a failed shoe shop before it.  For anyone not familiar with my adopted town, I should point out the sorry fact that many shops fail in Stafford, including - to my great chagrin - its lone delicatessen.  Oh, and we have never been lucky enough to warrant a wool shop selling the sort of ball that doesn't give you an electric shock.

Frau Hermine Mayer, Proprietor of Vienna in Stafford

So today, notwithstanding an urgent need to recce Stafford's sherry and turkey crown options, I braved the intermittent hail to check out this latest retail phoenix, called "Vienna".  It turned out to be a tiny perfume shop carrying a variety of high end brands (principally Guerlain, Lalique, Hermes, Amouage, Cartier, Ruth Mastenbroek(!), Patou, Bvlgari and Fleurs d'Ombre), shoehorned into a small luxury clothing store.  The flacons nestle cheek by jowl alongside Wolford tights, La Perla lingerie, a selection of high end Austrian coats, a pile of Scottish wool blankets, some soft kid leather gloves (as worn by The Queen!), and an assortment of expensive handbags.  I also spotted a Filofax by The Bridge.  The proprietor, a pretty blonde lady called Frau Mayer, turned out to hail from Vienna, which explained the Schneiders coat collection - albeit they are technically from Salzburg. And Wolford is of course from Bregenz - I accidentally drove past their Head Office once as I was crossing several borders in short order (an occupational hazard in that part of Austria), and my eye was distracted by the forest of pedalling mannequin legs in the foyer.

Frau Mayer & daughter Monika - flanked by happily co-existing tights and Amouage scents

Frau Mayer and I got to chatting in a mixture of English and my rusty German. I learnt that her sister Elvira Birkin had been the proprietor of "Elvira", an eponymous 'perfume-in-a-coat shop' in Newcastle-under-Lyme,  some 15 miles from here.  I had been tipped the wink about this store by Ralph, a fellow fumehead I had a blind sniffing date with once in Stafford, but - for my sins - I had never got round to visiting it.  Now, after 25 years of trading, Frau Mayer's sister had sadly died earlier this year and she had come over to run the shop for a spell, before deciding to close down there and try her hand in a different location, namely Stafford.  Frau Mayer is not planning to stay for long, but rather is simply moving to fresh pastures for a spell.

I may have touched them before I saw the sign, but I think I got away with it!

The store's move to Stafford is an admirable yet bold one; and while I thought the Schneiders coats were well worth the c£400 they cost, I am not in the market for one at the moment, and I fear your typical Stafford shopper may not be either.  I am not even in the market for any more perfume indeed, though Frau Mayer is holding two testers she is selling off of Mitsouko and Nahema extrait de parfum for me in case I can find an interested party.  They are £90 each for what looks like 30ml, which is a bargain versus the typical retail for a new bottle of parfum of 270 euros approx. There was also one bottle each of Vol de Nuit and L'Heure Bleue in extrait, but they are spoken for, and all the Amouage (regular) perfumes are also sold. So that is encouraging, certainly.

As well as talking about local demographics and Frau Mayer's home town of Vienna, I couldn't not mention my meeting with Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels and the fact that another Austrian-based blogger, Val the Cookie Queen of APJ, must surely clock a number of Schneiders coats striding the chilly streets of Salzburg on her morning delivery rounds.  In short, it was all rather surreal.  Sampling Mahora and the latest Ruth Mastenbroek in Stafford while talking German was almost as bizarre an experience as if I had met Bertrand Duchaufour in Lidl during the turkey and sherry scoping exercise.  And in one of my Scent Crimes Series posts, entitled "Binning the classics", I relate the sobering tale of the bemused reaction Clare herself got in Stafford's Co-op department store (as it was then) when she inquired about Mitsouko...

Mahora - so unexpected and so not Lacoste Touch of Pink 

So there you go - a pop up shop that will pop down again shortly, as serendipitously as it came, so if you are within striking distance of Stafford, come and grab a bargain while you can!  Support local enterprise in this, the most worthy of product categories!  Oh, and there is 25% off all the standard perfume lines... ;)

And as I say, if you are after slightly sprayed testers of Mitsouko or Nahema parfum, please let me know in the comments or drop me an email at 'flittersniffer at gmail dot com'.  I probably have an option on them till Christmas, say, maybe a bit beyond.


Up next, in time for Christmas...the results of the Puredistance BLACK sample draw!





14 comments:

  1. A truly bizarre and wonderful tale! Globalization as it should be experienced, rather than the worst bits of it that usually rain down on us 'common folk'.

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    1. Hi Cymbaline,

      Thanks for dropping in! Yes, Stafford certainly feels like a cosmopolitan perfume mecca, which it never did before. ;)

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  2. Excellent! I love it!
    Give my best to Frau Mayer should you go back! xx

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    1. Hi B,

      I will indeed! Am putting the word out about the parfum amongst my local friends who are known wearers of Mitsouko - Nahema might be a stretch as it is less well known.

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  3. "Gordon Bennett!" springs to mind. How random. May Frau Mayer reach cult status. Tell her bussis from me. Anonomously yours, CQ xxx

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    1. Hi CQ,

      Random is the word. Or zufaellig, even. I am trying to be a one-woman publicity machine for the store for as long as it is here. Still mourning the delicatessen, but it only sold sandwiches, apparently.

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  4. Too bad Vol de Nuit has been spoken for :) But I hope somebody else will support your local economy ;)

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    1. Hi Undina,

      I thought that about Vol de Nuit - when I spotted it I immediately thought of Tara, but not to be.

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  5. Yes, I immediately perked up at the mention of Vol de Nuit but considering I already have 2 bottles of the extrait and 1 of the edt it's just as well it's spoken for.

    So pleased you made time to scope this one out before Christmas. How wonderful to have a little bit of Austria land on your doorstep, even if only for a short time. Thoroughly enjoyed reading all about it and am sure they'll sell a lot of their stock at such knocked down prices. 25% of the regular perfume lines is great too.

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    1. Hi Tara,

      Ah, I knew you had some extrait, but wasn't sure if you were close to the point of needing to restock. You probably do have a good stash there already. ;)

      It does feel like a little bit of Austria on my doorstep, yes! Frau Mayer's skirt suit is quintessentially Austrian too, ditto her swept back hair in a Birgit bun. Here's hoping they sell a lot in the Christmas period!

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  6. Wow! I've never smelt Mahora, it's on my list of rare delights to try. What did it smell like? I guess you'd have to be a serious perfumista to buy a used tester. I can't imagine the average shopper seeing used perfume as am appealing item. I think your post might have us traveling from afar for this though!

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      Mahora is quite fuggy and rich, and not my bag at all it must be said, though I was chuffed to see it in there. If you like Nicolai Sacrebleu there's a good chance this might appeal? I agree that the used testers would only appeal to folk like us, but there is a lot of virgin stock on sale too for the regular punters. ;)

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  7. Well done, Frau Mayer and Stafford (and Clare)! :-)

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    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Nice to see you! And yes, hip hip hooray for the combined effort involved of getting this venture off the ground and luring me to it!

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