Yesterday when I called in for our daily bread there was a notice stuck to the counter explaining that the bakery was in liquidation and would open for the last time on Tuesday. The other customer in there at the same time as me is a young woman much the same age as Carene Pichard, who runs the bakery with her husband. The two of them have always appeared to be on quite friendly terms, but she was as shocked as me to hear the news.
Carene herself seemed calm and matter of fact about it. I suspect it was a relief to have it out in the open and the end in sight. I did not attempt to get any real details from her, but based on a conversation we had some time ago, I presume it brings to an end an ongoing dispute with their landlord (they don't own the bakery premises) about who should spend the money to upgrade the plumbing and other problems. The landlord would have been perfectly happy for them to plough their money into his real estate and improve it, but he wasn't interested in even meeting them halfway with the expenses, or giving them any sort of equity, and they felt it was too much of a risk.
As far as the Pichard's are concerned, it may well be the best thing that could have happened. It leaves Jean-Luc free to get a salaried job as a baker in one of the big supermarkets. This would give the family financial security and according to Carene, the bakery departments at the big Auchan and Leclerc supermarkets are proper boulangeries ie making the bread from scratch, not from frozen dough. At some stage they may move to Le Blanc, where Carene's family lives, but for the moment it seems they will stay in Preuilly and keep the children in school here (parents of primary school age children will be relieved, as it is always worrying when numbers drop in small rural schools). I suppose they will move house though, as they currently live over the shop.
As it happens I had a conversation with their boy (Florian I think his name is...) on Bastille evening. He asked me what I was doing when he saw me heaving a shutter up onto a side door of the house. He was just passing with a group of kids, including his sister, armed with bangers and cigarette lighters (which he proudly showed me). I would guess he's about 7 or 8. He and his big sister are confident, polite and lively children, easily recognised around town by their white blond hair and alabaster pale skin, and often in the shop 'helping'. Their parents too are involved in town life outside of the bakery. Both of them help with fundraising events for the school and I am always having to come up with good excuses as to why I can't attend fundraising belote (a card game) or loto (bingo) gatherings with Carene - ce n'est pas mon truc.
As far as the customers are concerned, it will mean going to the other boulangerie patisserie in town for 5 days of the week, and using the depot de pain at the Vival supermarket on the baker's day off. We will probably make our own bread on these days. Their part time employee, who only works a day and a half a week, can't have been earning very much, but I don't know what her situation is, so I don't know how much it will impact on her.
According to someone I ran into on the way home, the third bakery in town only closed in about 2003 or 04. A few years later, it was one of the places we looked at when we were house hunting. It would have been a real challenge to renovate, and is right on the main road, so it is a good thing we didn't buy it (we almost did). It seems incredible that a town with a population of under a thousand could support more than one bakery, much less two or even three.