"Ca va, vieille branch?" roughly translates from French to Aussie as "How're ya going old Mate?" a sentiment that perfectly suits the laid-back ambience of Brisbane's newest purveyor of French antiques + curiosities Vieille Branche - Things of Old. I stopped by to meet with Jen, JC + their Jack Russell Terrier Marcel to find out a little bit about their story.
Jen + JC had spent plenty of time pottering about with old pieces of furniture but it was on their recent trip to France, for Jen to meet JC's family + friends, that the seed for their new venture was planted.
It was JC's mother who introduced them to the secondhand store close to the family home in Gouville Sur Mer, Normandy. Jen remembers her first trip there, "It was so exciting! They just had everything from fantastic 1700s dressers + antique farm tables to wartime icons, antique linens, Napoleonic + art deco pieces... everything! Unlike here in Australia everything was real! It was a real old French farm table, a real helmet that someone actually wore in the First World War + a milk pitcher that a real old French lady used to collect the milk from the farmer! I found the whole thing so fascinating!"
From there, with help from Jen's parents back in Brisbane - Jen's mum, Sue, also runs a small framing workshop specialising in custom frames fashioned from recycled timber from the store - Jen + JC went about stocking a local warehouse with bits + pieces to ship home for sale.
The buying process itself sounds like it was an adventure, "The shop in France was very popular; because Normandy is so close to England many tourists catch the ferry over to go on buying trips + generally lots of people would be there each day. There was a high turnover of furniture so JC + I visited almost every second day. We would take a quick look around the shop, subtly indicating what things we liked to each other, sussing out the competition, then run + grab a shop attendant who would mark the items as sold."
After a few of these stealth shopping trips the owner of the secondhand store, Manuel, became curious as to why the pair were buying such large quantities of furniture. Once he discovered the plan he was keen to get involved. Jen says, "Manuel gave us a lot of advice on how to treat the wood before shipping + how to pack the furniture correctly in cardboard. He also suggested we start a partnership which would enable us to increase the size of the container + fill it with some smaller objects like the exquisite marbled porcelain from the 1950s + items that we may not have necessarily had access to like the extremely old 1700s sideboards."
The process of packing up the container of goods was a 3hr marathon effort that was documented in this lovely little time-lapse video...
Once back in Australia Jen, a graphic designer, + JC, a photographer + illustrator, put their skills to use developing the logo + typography for their stationery suite + website + photographing each + every item for the online store. After starting out primarily online they were offered their current space in Newstead which is shared with photographers Sam Thies + Josh Thies + marketing agency Pusher.
Jen + JC are regularly in touch with their French suppliers + have started sourcing specific items by request. They are also planning another buying trip in September.
Whilst they love their French fare Jen + JC are also passionate about supporting the local Brisbane creative scene. To that end they regularly play host to seasonal makers' markets. Do pop down to check out the space + wares of some of our local creative talent!