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The intriguing ‘shop next door’ in Sharon

SHARON — When Le Gamin opened in March 2021 at the Sharon shopping plaza, bringing an acclaimed French restaurant to the town, additional shop space next door was included in the arrangement.

Le Gamin, French Café and Bistro, is thriving albeit a little quieter now. Owner Robert Arbor said, “The winter months are steady, but less busy than the summer.” This is understandable when it’s too cold to settle in at the outdoor tables — and perhaps a relief for the staff, after months of full tables and steady take-out orders.

As busy as they were with the restaurant and with the renovation of their own home in Sharon, Arbor and his wife, Tam Tran, were also deep in thought about what to do with the space next door.

For a time they discussed the possibility of turning it into an ice cream shop — but decided instead to use it for imaginative, informal retail.

Pausing for a conversation on Sunday, Jan. 16, Tran said the full name for the shop is Le Gamin The Shop Next Door — specifying that there is no punctuation in the name.

Tran brings the experience of years in the fashion industry and retail in New York City. She has more recently earned recognition in the realm of high-fashion specialty jewelry design, through her company Lost Wax Studio. Her jewelry designs have been seen in feature  films. They are also created on commission for private clients — all of which keeps her extraordinarily busy in her home studio.

Stocking the shop, Tran said, began with an existing inventory of French vintage work jackets that she had on hand in July 2021.

The small space is now stocked with an array of relatively inexpensive items, usually under $200, with a mix of her select jewelry, her pottery creations (which are also used at the restaurant), placemats, canvas totes made in India, clothing and more.

The idea is to have fun with the retail space, with unplanned offerings sourced from informal relationships, Tran said.

“We’ve been doing it for 30 years,” she said of her experience and that of the Le Gamin restaurant enterprise in New York City.

During the 2000s, she had a retail shop in New York, specializing in French imports, but found that it was difficult to ship goods from France, due to rules that called for too deep a commitment.

With COVID-19 and subsequent disruptions, Tran said that she needed to interrupt her jewelry design and concentrate mostly on commissioned design work. She also opened a showroom for independent designers.

“I have a big network,” she said.

Tran describes her jewelry concept as ancient and hand-worked, using materials from the classical period.  She has led a three-week studio workshop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in connection with the Arms and Armor gallery, creating designs inspired by that exhibit.

The Sharon shop operates something like a farmstand, she said, using the honor system. The Shop Next Door is open when Le Gamin is open. To access the shop, simply ask at the restaurant, shop to your heart’s content, and pay for purchases at the restaurant. It’s as unstructured as that, and fun, too.

Fans of Le Gamin will want to note, also, that the first entry in the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon’s new cooking series will feature “Cooking with Robert” of Le Gamin on Saturday, Feb. 12, beginning at 4 p.m.  Registration for the Zoom program is free at the library’s website.

For more information on the restaurant, go to www.legamin.com/sharon and follow legaminstudioagraire on Instagram for photos and daily dining specials; see more of Tran’s work at lostwaxstudionyc on Instagram. The restaurant phone number is 860-397-5382, and the hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (closed Wednesdays).

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