Words by Thomas Connors
Photography by Robin Subar
Oak Street and Evanston. These are the poles of Marit and Jacques Bohbot’s World. They pass their days in the exquisitely appointed surroundings of the Buccellati boutique in Chicago, where he is the store director and she manages the marketing (or as Jacques says, “I’m the manager and she’s the boss”). Come evening, the couple head north, to a modern loft near McCormick Park. “when you get on Lake Shore Drive and see the water, the day kind of rolls off of you” relates Marit, “and you know you’re heading home.”
This worldly couple- she’s Swedish, he’s French- have long made their careers in the luxury good industry, working with such renowned names as Bulgari and Chanel. At Buccellati- the famed Italian jeweler founded in Milan in 1919- the Bohbots not only cater to a discerning clientele, but use the shop to support a range of worthy causes, from the Art Institute of Chicago and Lincoln Park Zoo, to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation.
“We partner with various charities to provide an interesting, fundraising experience for their supporters,” explains Marit.
“We transform the space, which features an 18th-century pharmacy from Venice, into a beautiful dining room. We work with different chefs, who create a four-course meal, and the ladies get to wear Buccellati jewels for the evening.”
The Bohbots met 23 years ago in St.Thomas and before relocating to the Midwest two years ago to operate the Buccellati Store on Oak Street, made their home in Florida. But they are no strangers to these parts. They first settled in Evanston 14 years ago, when Jacques was with Bulgari and communting to work on North Michigan Avenue. “Back then,” says Marit, “we were newlyweds, carefree and going out a lot. Now, we’re parents, with two young girls. When we came back, we thought we’d try living somewhere else and looked all over, from Lincoln Park to Hinsdale. But Evanston is still a good fit.”
The schools, of course, were a draw. But they city offered so much more, not the least of which is a sophisticated yet relaxed lifestyle. “Because of our jobs, we go out a lot,” shares Jacques. “In Evanston, we don’t need to be part of a scene, we can just enjoy ourselves.”
Which isn’t to suggest these two are complete couch potatoes. In the winter, you’ll find the family cross country skiing and in the summer, enjoying Shakespeare-in-the-Park. The Bohbots are big fans of the Evanston Public Library and its extensive programming for younr people, and Jacques is especially keen on the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.
When it comes to dining, the couple’s favorite destinations include Amy Morton’s Found Kitchen and Social House, Farmhouse, and La Macchina Cafe. For something sweet, they’ll pop into Patisserie Coralie, haunt of pastry chef, Manuel Bouillet, who burnished his whisk at the estimable Fauchon in Paris. And they recently made their first visit to Temperance Beer Company, where former marine biologist, Claudia Jendron, is doing wonderful things with suds.
Returning to Evanston after more than a decade away, the couple were quick to renew old acquaintances and dive right in to developing new friendships. “The Bohbot’s circle is a pretty international set, but their socializing is down home. “We like to cook,”says Marit, “but casually. We invite friends to be apart of the process and hang out with a glass of wine.” And because their friends hail from all over, notes Jacques, “We’re always being introduced to different foods.”
Their roots may be European and their days at the “office” can be pretty glamorous, but the Bohbots are more than happy to make their home in the oh-so-sensibe Midwest. “What’s nice about Evanston,” observes Marit, “is that so many people attended Northwestern, then went off to live elsewhere, often working oerseas. They experienced other places and other people and came back here by choice. That makes for a special group.” And she adds, “They knew the winters are rough, but they want to be here.”