Well, one group of French business owners is determined to showcase NYC’s own enclave of French culture by dubbing Centre Street in Nolita/SoHo (between Broome & Grand St.) as “Little Paris”!
The initiative is spearheaded by women-owned language and cultural center Coucou. The business moved to Centre St. in 2019, and the owners noticed how they were tucked in between well-known cultural neighborhoods but didn’t have “a strong identity of its own.” They also noticed that the “quaint little boutiques, cafes and restaurants, and bakeries” reminded them of Paris.
Along Centre St. you can find French café and bakery Maman, wine bar La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, and art and home decor shop Clic. And a short walk away in the same neighborhood you can find even more French shops and brands, like: Sézane, Cire Trudon, Maison Kitsuné, Ba&sh, Atelier Cologne, Le Labo, Ceci Celà Pâtisserie, Diptyque, French Cheese Board, and more.
To complete the Parisian vibe is the old police headquarters located across the street from Coucou, whose architecture was inspired by Paris’s famous Hotel de Ville (City Hall) with its Beaux Arts style.
Though they have already petitioned Manhattan’s Community Board 2 (you can sign it at the shared link) to officially name the area “Little Paris,” they have also gone ahead and commissioned hand-painted street signs made in Paris to install on the exterior of the buildings on Centre St.
You can already see them up across the neighborhood!
Besides just the modern ties to French culture and business, the area also has a rich history connected to the European country. There was a historical “little France” or “quartier Francais” in SoHo from the 1870s to 1890s (though a bit west of the area today), and on Centre St. there was once a hill (“Bayard Mount”) that was named for William Bayard who came from a prominent French family and was known to be friends with Alexander Hamilton!
The business owners hope that creating the Little Paris neighborhood will “establish an anchor for people to explore and learn about French culture in NYC.” To stay up to date, follow @coucoufrenchclasses or stop by the neighborhood yourself to get a taste of Paris in NYC!
They also usually host a block party for Bastille Day in July with live music, French treats and cocktails.