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Two major French retailers -- Casino Group and Relay -- partnered last year to provide consumers with an alternative to huge hypermarkets and supermarkets while enjoying a much more pleasurable experience than at a typical coffee shop. The new concept, the first of which opened a year ago in Paris, is called Chez Jean, and is being billed as a one-of-a-kind convenience store that offers consumers "somewhere to get those small daily pleasures," according to the firm that designed the store.
The 50/50 joint venture between the two European retail power- houses is divided into three main sections: a restaurant, a food shop and a "press" (newspaper/magazine stand), said Fleur-Victoria Lloan of design agency Saguez & Partners. Although the 1,485-square-foot store does not sell cigarettes, it carries other typical convenience store products, such as fill-in groceries, newspapers, magazines, lottery and flowers.
The food shop, or grocery section, carries products from the Casino supermarket chain, while the press section, located in the center of the store, carries Relay items. The outside of the store has a colorful and heated terrace.
The largest section in terms of sales, though, has been the restaurant, where customers can get breakfast with unlimited coffee refills, and light chilled or hot meals prepared in-store or to take away. Also available are sandwiches, salads and croissants.
The stores are open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Other services offered by Chez Jean include Wi-Fi access for surfing the Internet, phone sockets for recharging mobile devices and a cash dispenser.
"The strength of Chez Jean is that it brings together so many basic businesses to provide for all everyday needs and desires in one place and make life better," said the design firm, which chose the name because it is a simple, popular and current French forename, which expresses "a genuinely welcoming feeling: the door is always open, welcome home!"
The first Chez Jean opened in the Parisian district of Republique in January 2009. Four additional units have opened since then, in the districts of Charenton, Lafayette, Faubourg and Montmartre. Saguez & Partners said three more units are in development for this year.
A typical "dinner bag" from Chez Jean might include a bottle of wine, a pastry and a ready-to-eat meal, said Lloan.