By Pauline Stewart
It’s a beautiful interiors shop but with some delightful outdoor pieces as well. Cote Bleu is on your way walking from the Cooks Beach ferry to the Whitianga town centre, or it’s on your way to the ferry, tucked two thirds the way along Monk Street towards the Esplanade.
Danielle Robinson and Jean-Christophe Soriano opened their store during covid in August, 2020.
Jean, a frenchman, gave this exquisite store its name, Cote Bleu or Blue Coast. “We are on the coast and it is an intensely blue coast,” says Jean, referring to the blues of the ocean and sky in Mercury Bay. The international flavour extends to the store’s stock and elegant displays. Danielle and Jean are pleased to have taken on a couple of local producer/artists having their products in the store, but Danielle also sources stock from Bali, France, India, Morocco , Mexico, Vietnam, Turkey, and Italy. She adds, “We source products that are proven fair trade labels and ethically sourced. We look for recycled wood and natural products when selecting.”
Jean says, “If we feel that we would love a particular piece or a set of glasses or décor in our own home, then we decide that is good to have in our store.”
Danielle selects the products and decides the range. Jean looks after the administration and the accounts for Cote Bleu. “We are both the boss,” grins Jean, but Danielle quickly adds, “There’s no question about who is the boss, it’s me.” There is a steady flow of customers during the holiday season and the creative layout and display invites customers to linger. “We don’t have a lot of space inside, says Danielle, but we have two outdoor areas set out with pieces ideal for hospitality - dining environments and tranquil settings.”
Danielle speaks of her parents who had a huge fabric centre back in their day in Tokoroa. “My grandparents had it before them. My parents also established a clothing store in addition to the fabric centre. What I consider unusual is, that my father taught my mother to sew. He did all the upholstery on our family boat and made all the curtains for our home. He purchased an industrial machine which was a big investment then. My mother sewed all the clothes for our family. I’m sure this has influenced my love for fabrics and interiors, but the ability to sew has not come my way,” she smiles.
The Cavieres family from Auckland came in to Cote Bleu for a repeat shopping visit from their previous year. Rolando the Dad said, “We love this store and we love Whitianga. We want to live here.”
Cote Bleu is a welcome find in Monk Street. Danielle Robinson and Jean-Christophe Soriano (above) with their retail display of glassware from Mexico