Monday, 11 June 2018

Karim and the Episervice


Our nearest minimart (corner store) is the Episervice on rue des Halles in Preuilly. The previous owners have retired and moved to Limoges. It was touch and go as to whether they would be able to sell the business, but luckily for Preuilly, a young man called Karim Arabi has arrived to take over the shop.

Karim is hard working, ever ready with a smile and willing to help shoppers with deliveries and other little services. He left school at 16 and has worked ever since. I suspect having a small business of his own is a real step up for him, and he's clearly up for the challenge.

 Karim serving customers.

The shop is open every day (Monday to Saturday 8 am - 12:30 pm and 3 pm - 8 pm, and Sunday 8 am - 1 pm). Fresh fruit and vegetables are delivered three times a week. There is the usual selection of store cupboard groceries and household products, but he also focuses on local products with few food miles eg milk from le Grand Pressigny, cheese from Bossay sur Claise and Le Petit Pressigny, and honey from Berry. Marrocan specialities will also get a higher than usual profile, given Karim's family background (he was delighted to point out that the harissa paste I bought from him recently was 'the best').

He and his wife Valérie have four children. One was born since their arrival in Preuilly at the end of April, so is very new. The others are school age and a welcome addition to the Pruillacien scolastic establishments. I know that our mayor really encouraged him to move to Preuilly, both for the continuation of the business and the additional children for the schools. Our mayor is particularly concerned to maintain services such as independent shops and home deliveries in Preuilly because of the number of elderly and infirm who live in town and don't drive. Karim is truly a welcome addition to the town from that point of view.

Karim standing in the fresh and local produce section of the shop.

At the moment the front door of the shop is boarded up after having been smashed. A local man went on a spree recently, verbally abusing several people in shops and the street. When he started harassing the wheelchair bound old woman who lives opposite the Episervice, Karim intervened to protect her. As a result the man, who has psychiatric and alcohol issues, smashed the door of the shop before the police arrived to haul him off.

Karim has impressed everyone who has come in contact with him. He's friendly, straightforward and wants to succeed. A few locals have expressed concern to me that as Maghrebis the family might not get a warm welcome from everyone in a small conservative rural location. But all I've seen is great willingness to support him, so I hope he and his family are here to stay.

8 comments:

  1. It’s refreshing, knowing how xenophobic the French usually are, to see an « Arab » being welcome in a rural small town like Preuilly. He probably didn’t vote for Rassemblement national (RN) the new avatar of Front national (FN) the extreme-right party of racist Marine Le Pen.

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    1. I've no doubt he will get to put up with his share of casual racism nonetheless.

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  2. How nice of you to give Karim such an excellent write-up, Susan. If I lived in Preuilly, I would certainly be inclined to stop by after reading that.
    Btw, that first photo reminds me how sensible of the French it is to sell a single leek. At our supermarket I have to buy a bunch of three enormous ones. They don't keep that long, and I always end up tossing one which is long past it's prime.

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    1. Yes, a single leek is often all one needs.

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  3. Lovely post. I will make sure to call in when I need something and don't want to drive further afield. Although we buy from supermarkets and the market we like to support smaller shops like our village boulangerie and boucherie. I'll also tell him (in my best French) that I read about him on your blog.

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  4. L'Arabe du coin, meaning the corner store or neighborhood grocery run by a North African immigrant, has been an established institution in French cities, especially Paris, for generations. Now it's spreading to the countryside. The man who operates one local pizzeria is Moroccan, and the little alimentation générale on the same street is run by a North African immigrant too. French people can however be pretty racist when it comes to North Africans. Not all French people are like that, of course.

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    1. Those so-called North African immigrants were not immigrants at all since most of them, especially the Algerians, were French citizen to begin with. Many of them, having fought for France in WWII, emigrated here to escape the contempt they were the object in their native land just to find ugly French racism!

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