Store No One Could Spell Closes on Michigan Avenue

There aren’t many high-end perfume boutiques in Chicago.  In fact, there may not be any anymore.

The L’Artisan Parfumeur store in the Shops at 900 North Michigan Avenue has closed.  Employees were given no notice, other than that they should report to work the next day to pack up the inventory for shipping back to the American headquarters in a tacky graffiti-covered back alley in New York.

For those of you who don’t know it (and if people did, it wouldn’t have had to close), L’Artisan is a French company that makes its perfumes from entirely natural ingredients.  Mostly wildflowers harvested from the hillsides of the French countryside.

There are a number of L’Artisan outlets in Europe.  In the Americas, there’s a handful in New York City, plus one in Montreal and the former Chicago boutique.

So, why did it fail in Chicago?  Probably for a lot of reasons.  While well-heeled Midwesterners are willing to splash out on a bottle of good perfume once a year or so, the business at the Chicago shop was miniscule compared to what moves in New York.  Image-conscious Gothamites have been known to splash out thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in L’Artisan boutiques in one purchase.  In Chicago, the clientele treated the store more as a museum piece than a place to spend money.  “That’s very nice, but it’s not for us.”

It didn’t help that virtually nobody knew there was a L’Artisan boutique in Chicago.  We once inquired about why there was no advertising for a retailer that was probably unique in the region.  We were told that advertising was beneath L’Artisan.  When we countered that Coca-Cola and McDonald’s didn’t get where they are today without an ad or two we got a dismissive, “it [advertising] is not really our thing.”

So in light of recent events I have to pose the rhetorical question, “Hey, L’Artisan — how’s that ‘no advertising’ thing working out for ya?”

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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