Home away from home: Comptoir 102 interview

Founders of lifestyle destination Comptoir 102, Emma Sawko and Alexandra De Montaudouin, talk about their chic café and shop

Visiting Comptoir 102 is like stepping into a haven. Surrounded by elegant design, good food, and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s the kind of place you could happily while away the hours.

Which is exactly what founders Alexandra De Montaudouin and Emma Sawko wanted.

“We want people to come here not just to buy a table or a necklace, but to spend some time relaxing,” says De Montaudouin. “We want them to be comfortable and to feel like they have somewhere they can come to enjoy their time.”

Their café-come-design shop is certainly that.

Located in the northerly end of Jumeirah, the concept combines healthy eating and exquisite artistry, based around the founders’ love for wholesome food and quality interior design, fashion, and jewellery.

Looking at the venue they have created, it’s no surprise the duo share a passion for design. What is surprising, however, is that neither had worked in the retail or restaurant industries before.

De Montaudouin says: “I used to work in France with Sotheby’s, and in event management. I’ve never been in this industry before.

“My background is that I have loved interior design for a long time, and did some freelance work when I was first in Dubai from 2004 to 2007.”

Sawko’s previous career path had been along similar lines. Having been born in New York and brought up in Geneva, she moved to Paris where she worked in advertising, and then for an architect, decorating the new homes.

“I stayed there for ten years,” she says. “I stopped working there when we moved to New York seven years ago for my husband’s work. I went into decoration for kids as a freelancer, and then came to Dubai where I met Alex. That’s where it all started.”

When Sawko and De Montaudouin, back in Dubai for the second time, first met, it was clear they had both been thinking along similar lines regarding their careers.

According to De Montaudouin, they had “exactly the same idea – maybe not the same ideas about how to operate, but the same concept at its heart”.

Their dream of creating a lifestyle destination where people could buy decorations and furnishings, sit, eat, and meet with friends was based on their experiences in other parts of the world.

De Montaudouin says: “We have had experiences of places like that in Paris and New York, and we loved them a lot, so it was inspiring for us to see these places doing extremely well and bringing new ways to shop, eat, and enjoy themselves.

“We wanted to bring that kind of cool lifestyle place here.”

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