Hi there!  I’m Lora Wiley and here’s a little bit of history about Au Marché.

Hi there!  I’m Lora Wiley and here’s a little bit of history about Au Marché.

I was a junior at the University of Kansas the year that I studied abroad in Besançon, France. That was back in 1993 to 1994. While studying abroad I was lucky enough to be able to travel throughout Europe, and throughout France. Toward the end of my academic year abroad, when I had been away from home for about 8 months, I visited my best friend, Denise, who was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, in the South of France. She took me to a little food shop that sold some American foods… Things like Skittles and Snapple and Oreos. I hadn’t felt a lot of homesickness – I was too busy having fun, learning to speak French better, making new friends and Eurail Passing around Europe as much as I could – but seeing those foods from my childhood made me feel an unexpected longing for the familiarity of home.

For a few years, while finishing up my degrees at KU, then living in New York City and later in Kansas City, I found myself often thinking about that little store. I decided that if I could, I would like to open a store that did the opposite. I wanted to sell everyday European food items in America.

In 1998, after meeting the owners of Brits, a shop here in Lawrence, KS that sells British foods, the opportunity to make my dream a reality fell into place. Sally and Susie, the owners of Brits, called me on a Sunday afternoon when I was living in Kansas City, and they said that they had found a teeny tiny side street spot in Downtown Lawrence that would be just perfect for opening my dream store. They also said that they’d be willing to help.

Today, 25 years later, both Au Marché and Brits are going strong! Au Marché’s teeny tiny space on 9th Street in Downtown Lawrence was the perfect spot for me to learn how to become a store owner. Any mistakes that I made weren’t too big, and all the successes that I had built upon one another until it became apparent that we were outgrowing our little space. Since 2003, Au Marché has been fortunate to be located “on Mass,” as we say here in Lawrence, Kansas. “On Mass” means on Massachusetts Street, one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Kansas and the Midwest.

Lawrence, Kansas, as you may know, is a university town.  Our city is full of interesting, diverse people from a multitude of backgrounds.  My staff and I have had the great fortune to learn from our many customers who live here in the United States but call another country home. Because of what our customers have taught us over these past few decades, Au Marché carries an excellent array of goods – chocolates, macarons, cookies, cheese, salami, pâté, pickled herring, mustards, and mixes for dishes like Wiener Schnitzel and Sauerbraten -- from France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. We take suggestions every day. If there is something you’re looking for that you don’t see on our website, please let me know. You can reach me at lora@aumarche.com  And if you’re interested in working here, send me your résumé at that email address, too.

In closing, I want to say that I am very grateful to be able to do what I love, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. Like so many businesses, it is thanks to our dedicated customers that Au Marché has been able to weather storms (the Great Recession of 2008 and the COVID pandemic come to mind) and been able to grow, allowing us to broaden our inventory and enabling me to hire such a great staff.

Owning a retail store is a lifestyle, and one that has served me very well.  I met my husband at the store (he is a Sweden junkie and would come in for Hafi Lingonberry Saft in the early days), I’ve made great friends (customers and staff alike), and I’m able to raise my children with the flexibility that parents often need to be able to get things done.  Asa and Elise both came to the store with me every day as babies, and now as a teenager and almost-teenager, they occasionally work at Au Marché on the floor.  It’s not uncommon to be rung up during the busy Holiday season by my 12-year-old.  That alone – being able to include my kids in my dream -- gives me such joy!   I look forward to sharing Au Marché with you and learning about what European goodies bring joy to your heart.