A business partner has paid tribute to one of the co-founders of Luxembourg fine food store La Provençale, who died on 4 November at the age of 85.
A baker by trade, Studer co-founded the first Cactus shop, now a chain, before seizing on an untapped market and creating a high quality grocer’s when the Weber Soeurs shop at 48 Grand Rue, in Luxembourg City, became vacant.
At the age of 34, Studer teamed up with Michel Eischen and Jean Schmidt, a butcher, to open the store on 8 January 1969 with 14 employees. Georges Arendt joined 15 months later, buying Schmit’s shares in the business.
On 23 June 1970, the title “Fournisseur de la Cour” was conferred on the shop.
“He was a real leader of a man,” Arendt told Delano, adding; “He liked to have contact with the customers and he listened to what people wanted.”
The name La Provençale apparently arose when Studer was leafing through a food dictionary and found the names of exotic dishes suffixed with “à la Provençale”.
Studer drew inspiration from the famous Maison Fauchon Paris for his selection of fine foods, that included caviar and smoked salmon.
In 1970, the trio opened a fish market in 98 route d’Esch, a site occupied today by an Italian restaurant. A shop followed in 1972 in rue du Puys, Bonnevoie, where the trio sold vegetables, mushrooms and game.
In October 1979, they consolidated the three outlets on one site in Leudelange where La Provençale remains today.
Studer is credited with inventing the Luxemburgli, a cream-filled macaron, which he came up with in a competition hosted by the Sprüngli bakery in Zurich, where he worked in the 1950s before branching out as an entrepreneur.
During his younger years, Studer played football for Spora, a club based in Luxembourg City, today known as Racing FC Union Luxembourg after several clubs merged. He was also a trainer at the Mertzig football club. “That’s how he knew a lot of people,” Arendt recalled. Studer applied the same discipline to his business as to sport, often working 12-hour days, starting at 4am when they had the fish market. In Leudelange he was never idle—with the shop expanding in 1979, 1989 and 1997.
The business was set back by a serious fire in 1992, causing around 400m LUF in damage. Studer told Le Quotidien in 2012 that he lost eight kilos in two weeks, writing it off as a "good diet". The structural damage was repaired within six months with Arendt crediting the speed of recovery to the loyalty of customers and restaurants.
Today, La Provençale employs over 1,400 people. During the pandemic, the older business partners were urged to limit visits to the site where they continued to work.
An official tribute published by the store, read: “Camille's ideas combined with his vast knowledge, dedication, human knowledge and everlasting positive thinking led to today over 1,400 employees at La Provençale finding a second home. He always had an open ear to his co-workers and left a big hole in our hearts. More powerful than death are the memories that will live on forever, especially in the case of a role model like Camille Studer, a man who achieved much in life by approaching everything with heart and passion. We all bow before the great man for his deeds and say goodbye to him in this way. The management and staff of La Provençale.”