this thing's incredible

The Sleek French Shopping Trolley That’s Easy on My Mother’s Arms (and Dignity)

Photo: courtesy of the Retailer

Shopping with my mother at the farmer’s market — as I do often on weekends, on the Upper West Side where she lives — is an exercise in balance. Literally. When I accompany her, she walks ahead of me, picking things out (three cartons of strawberries, please, a couple pounds of clams, two massive loaves of SheWolf bread) and putting them in Whole Foods green bags, which I carry until we’re done. Then we split the bags, and walk 17 excruciating blocks to her apartment — by the time we get back, our arms and wrists tend to be covered in deep red welts. The process is uncomfortable with two — I shudder to imagine her doing it alone, which she does, multiple times a week (Fridays at 97th Street, Saturdays at 66th, and Sundays at 77th). She tried a utility cart for a while, but found lugging it around embarrassing — it was so dowdy, she said, and combined with the implication that she was unable to carry her own grocery bags, it left her depressed enough to just not. Back to the heavy bags she went.

Ever the considerate daughter, I decided to try to track down an aesthetically pleasing cart for her for Mother’s Day, so she’d be able to schlep home as many pounds of produce as she wanted without cutting off her blood circulation. She’d never been able to find one, but surely I could, I thought — I write about shopping. But as it turned out, she was right: It was a difficult task. All of the trolleys I found online came in garish, suburban shades of turquoise and purple, or else just looked too much like something you’d find at REI. I was at a dead-end when I had the inspired idea to try Top Hat, a truly wonderful store in the East Village that sells basically everything that you had no idea that you needed — beautiful, bright-red steel tool kits from Italy, willow picnic baskets with woven leather straps from Vienna, and, as it turns out, one glossy, color-blocked, super-structured, aluminum-handled shopping trolley from France. I saw it straight away when I walked in — it was hanging on the wall proudly, like a piece of (extremely utilitarian) art. I took it down, and rolled it admiringly around the 500-square-foot store, feeling impossibly stylish and composed for someone walking cheerfully in circles with a grocery cart.

It’s been three months since I gave her the cart (which I later found out won Best in Show at Maison & Objet’s 2019 Paris show — I felt proud), and she still totes it to the farmer’s market every single weekend. It wheels around on cobblestones smoothly, she says, is extremely durable (it’s made of Tyvek, a waterproof material that’s nearly impossible to tear), folds up easily and compactly, and just looks great. And the effect the thing has when filled up, with a baguette peeking coquettishly out the top, is downright charming — a true “French Woman’s Trick to Shopping” situation. It’s not cheap — $84 — but of course it’s not: It has a 100 percent monopoly on the Attractive Trolley Market.

Other handsome trolleys we like

Writer Allison Freer is a fan of this collapsible Versacart. “I was worried about looking like a dork pushing it,” she says, “but the white wheels and navy bag give it a crisp, clean feeling. I’m constantly having to tell people where I got it.”

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The Sleek French Shopping Cart That’s Easy on My Mom’s Arms