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The French School at the Heart of New York City’s Little Paris

Last year, the team at Coucou French Classes renamed one of Manhattan’s historic French neighborhoods. The French-owned businesses in Little Paris are thriving, and the Coucou team’s latest projects include creating a guide for Francophiles and anyone interested in learning more about the rich French culture that Little Paris has to offer.
© Robert Lester

In the spring of 2019, the founders of Coucou French Classes, a Manhattan-based French school and cultural hub, started a petition. They had noticed that, although the school was in an historically French neighborhood of the city and surrounded by thriving French businesses, their neighborhood’s name – Nolita – did not reflect its Francophone roots. In their petition, which quickly received over a thousand signatures, they proposed renaming their quartier “Little Paris.”

Last year, to celebrate Bastille Day, the founders put up hand-painted street signs all over Centre Street with the words “Little Paris NYC” on them. Today, visitors, locals, and Coucou students regularly take selfies in front of these signs. Little Paris also attracted the attention of the French government. In September 2021, the French consul Jérémie Robert visited Coucou French Classes to learn more about the school’s initiative and give his support to the mission of Little Paris: to celebrate and expand French culture in New York City.

French consul Jérémie Robert visited Manhattan’s Little Paris in October 2021. © Coucou French Classes

More recently, the team at Coucou has created a hand-designed guide, which features many of the French-owned businesses in Little Paris. In it, you’ll find Maman, a wonderful French restaurant and bakery just down the block from Coucou, as well as many other French businesses, some of which have teamed up with Coucou in the past. “We wanted to highlight some of our favorite French brands, like Ba&sh, Diptyque, and Sézane,” says Léa Perret, one of Coucou’s founders. “We were really surprised to discover that this kind of guidebook didn’t already exist. We’ve been giving our students recommendations about French stores to visit for years, but now they’ll finally have one comprehensive guide to Little Paris!”

Looking for French-owned businesses in Little Paris? There’s now a guide for it! © Coucou French Classes

The team at Coucou wants to share the guide with as many New York City locals, visitors, and Francophiles as possible. That’s why they have made it available beyond their student base. “We’re really excited about this next step in the Little Paris project,” says Victoire Lester, director of operations at Coucou. “The other day, I was so happy to see someone giving a tour of the neighborhood and talking about the history of Little Paris. We hope that the guide will create even more buzz about this wonderfully rich neighborhood that everyone should explore!”

In addition to the Little Paris guide, the teams at Coucou New York and Coucou Los Angeles are also busy working on many other cultural and educational projects, and are delighted to continue offering in-person and virtual classes. “We love teaching in person,” says Victoire Lester. “But during the pandemic, we learned how effective online classes can be. Now, students of any level who are interested in taking French classes virtually or in person can take our online placement test!”

Coucou French Classes