In 1960, at the age of 26, Francesco decided to start his own business, repairing watches and antique objects of various kinds. In Via Solferino, in the Brera neighborhood, he found a little shop and set up his business.
“I was paying 20 thousand lira in rent every two months in Via Solferino,” recalled Francesco. “I needed a workbench, so I walked over to Piazza del Carmine, where a used-furniture dealer sold me a marble-topped table for 3 thousand lira and a chair for another 2 hundreds. He pedaled everything over to Via Solferino on a tricycle. I hung a light bulb from the center of the ceiling, hanging it low so that it would shine on the table, because I didn’t have a table lamp. The shop was small, but still big enough to meet my needs. I had all the tools I needed to do my job”.
Palazzi Editori published a monthly magazine called Bellezza, which devoted an article with photographs to the objects sold in the little shop; in the article, Francesco was called “il Merù” because the concierge of the building in Via Solferino, being of a true Milanese, was unable to pronounce the final diphthong in his Sardinian last name – Mereu – and had thus shortened it to Merù.
It was a funny twist, and his friends teased him about it. But “Merù” was an original and appealing name, so Francesco went to the patents and trademarks office, registered it, and hung a plaque outside the shop.
He had already obtained a license to sell gold, but at the time his business mostly centered on precision timepieces. However, sincesome of his clients began to ask about precious stones as well, Francesco enrolled in a gemology course, which met in the evenings. As time passed, he began to dedicate himself more and more to gold and precious and semi-precious stones, which he combined with less valuable materials to create original pieces.
The little shop in Via Solferino began to shine, with a display window on the street and glass cases inside.
Merù’s reputation grew steadily, and attracted the attention of the fashion press. The original pieces began to appear in fashion magazines (Grazia, Gioia, Anna Bella, Anna, Amica). In the ‘80s, Merù’s fame spread like wildfire in Milan, “because we sold these unusual one-of-a-kind pieces that no one else had,” said Francesco. Merù became an emblematic brand of great success at the local level. During the Christmas season customers would line up outside the shop, along the sidewalk in Via Solferino.