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LIVING IN FRANCE

MAPS: How many Parisians live more than 5 minutes from a boulangerie?

Bakeries, butchers, wine shops and cafés - a new survey has been published studying Paris businesses and how close the capital is to being the '15 minute city'.

MAPS: How many Parisians live more than 5 minutes from a boulangerie?
The number of bakers in Paris remained stable in the latest study of the city's commerces. (Photo: Lionel Bonaventure / AFP)

The concept of Paris becoming a leading ’15-minute city’, in which all residents would have everything they needed within a short walk of their home, was an election pledge of the capital’s mayor – now Presidential candidate – Anne Hidalgo when she was up for re-election last year.

The idea is that communities within each arrondissement of the French capital become more ‘self-sufficient’, with grocery shops, parks, cafes, sports facilities, health centres, schools and even workplaces just a walk or bike ride away. This triennial survey of the city’s commerce shows that – in this one particular area important to French people – it already is.

The eighth study into the health of the capital’s shops, cafe culture and restaurants since 2000 found that 94 percent of Parisians live within a five-minute walk from a boulangerie.

In total there were 1,180 bakeries and patisseries in Paris in 2020, a figure that had remained stable over the previous decade after falling in the first 10 years of the 21st century.

More than 1,000 bakeries had been open for at least three years, 91 new business had started, and 94 had closed down.

This map shows the number of bakeries in Paris in 2020. Green dots show established shops over three years old, red are ones that opened since 2017, while blue dots indicate shops that have closed. Image: Apur

Bakers have kept their businesses viable over the past decade by offering new ranges, including snacks and sandwiches, the study by the non-profit Atelier parisien d’urbanisme (Apur) found. Nearly 200 of the bakeries in France have also set-up terraces to reap the benefits of Paris’s renowned cafe culture.

The 1,180 bakeries make up nearly two percent of the capital’s 61,541 shops and commercial services – an extremely dense commercial network compared to other cities in France.

On the flipside, the study also found that one-third of butchers had closed in 20 years, with retirement cited as the main reason for businesses closing, along with the rise of supermarkets’ butchery sections and what the report’s authors described as, ‘reduced enthusiasm’ for meat among the population.

It counted 516 dedicated butchers’ shops in the capital in 2020.

The evolution of butchers’ shops in Paris between 2017 and 2020. Image: Apur

Meanwhile, just 80 fishmongers stores were operating in the capital when the survey was carried out – though some 259 stalls operate in Paris’s various twice-weekly open-air markets.

There are only 80 permanent fishmongers shops in the whole of Paris. Image: Apur

Intriguingly, after going out of fashion in the 1990s number of ‘cavistes’, or wine sellers has risen by almost 75 percent since 2000, to number 613 in 2020, the study found. Nearly half – 47 percent – belong to a chain.

The total number of shops and commercial businesses in Paris dropped 1.9 percent between surveys in 2017 and 2020, having remained stable in the previous three years, with clothes stores, shoe shops, jewellers and wholesale outlets more likely to close, while restaurants, organic stores, health and well-being, and beauty outlets all expanded.

The capital saw 200 organic stores open in the three years to 2020, as well as 660 cafés and restaurants, while 1,097 shops and 583 wholesalers shut their doors.

The reports authors said the survey should trends that had started several years ago were continuing on Paris high streets. E-commerce, coupled with the rise of second-hand goods as a result of growing environmental concerns, explains the sharp decline in the number of  clothing, shoes, and jewellery stores.

The development of online shopping and accompanying changes in buying practices also largely explained the virtual disappearance of video shops, as well as the decline in high street banks, temporary employment agencies, travel agencies, and the difficulties the difficulties encountered by bookshops.

The latest survey was carried out in two parts in March and October 2020 during the Covid-19 health crisis.

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BUSINESS

‘I’ll never complain about URSSAF Again’: How two British brewers made it in France

Two months after brewing their first-ever beers in 2018, likely lads Tim Longstaff and Ash Smith bought a professional beer-making kit and started a brewery in the French Alps. Now, they sell 30,000 pints a month...

'I'll never complain about URSSAF Again': How two British brewers made it in France

“Sometimes opportunities just present themselves,” was the modest way Tim Longstaff described his and business partner Ash Smith’s successful decision to open a small craft brewery in the French Alps despite having no brewing experience and little experience of running a business in France.

“In France you could see, if you looked around in Lyon or Paris, that craft beer was happening here,” he said. “There’s that cliche that France is 10 years behind the UK – it was inevitable there would be a craft beer boom here, like there had been in the UK. 

“We thought if we don’t do it, someone else will.”

Nine years earlier, new graduate Tim had headed to the Alps for a seasonal job on the slopes. He had, by his own admission, no idea what to do next with his life, but thought idly that opening a brewery in the mountains might be ‘cool’.

“I moved here in 2013 to do a ski season in Les Arcs,” he said. “I came over after university when the craft beer scene had exploded in the UK. I was always surprised there was no good beer here.”

“I went back to the UK for a while and moved back to Chamonix in 2017 and – again – there was no good beer. Me and Ash Smith, my business partner, were bored of drinking crap, fizzy lagers, so we decided we’d learn to brew and start a brewery.”

From such crazy ideas, successful businesses grow. The location was right. The business was right. The timing was – just about – right.

“It was winter, January 2018,” Tim, 30, said. “We decided we’d start learning to brew. We bought some small homebrew equipment, 25-litre stuff. I did our first brew in March 2018. And in May 2018, we signed all the paperwork for a 500 litre brewing equipment with four 1,200-litre fermentation tanks.

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“We installed it in October – Nov 2018. That was our first winter season – we were running as a proper brewery, brewing 700 litres at a time. 

“We went from literally reading a few books and watching some Youtube videos, we produced one beer that we thought was reasonable, and that was it. We went to the bank, got a loan, put some money in ourselves and went for it. It was pretty ballsy, I guess.”

The pair’s Sapaudia Brewing Co is ideally placed in Aime-la-Plagne, in the heart of the world’s biggest ski area. “In terms of a market, especially in the winter, we couldn’t have asked for a better location,” Tim said. 

Picture: courtesy of Sapaudia Brewing Co

“It was a bit of a risk, but we were both in a place in our lives where we decided to just take a punt. We knew we were at the start of something in France. When we set up, there were two other breweries in this area – they were quite small – and there are now about 14 breweries of different sizes within an hour of where we are.

“A friend has a really small brewery that does 100 litre brews that he only sells in his restaurant, and there’s us who sell 30,000 pints a month in our biggest months. And there’s everything in between in this area.”

A business loan got the pair started, even though, in Tim’s words the bank’s business manager ‘didn’t have a clue what we were on about’, but getting through to local bars was a different matter. 

“When we started chatting to bars, the two references for beer are the Belgian styles – they’re quite strong – and then everything’s by colour. 

“So we’d say, ‘we’ve brewed an IPA’ and they’d ask ‘is it a blond, or a blanche?’, and we’d say, ‘no – it’s an IPA’, and no one knew what that was. They’d call it a blond because it was the same colour as a blond beer. But now IPA has become a massive buzzword [here].”

It seemed the pair had tapped into something – but then Covid hit. And everything shut down. 

Tim believes that French government help for the hospitality industry played a key role in ensuring the new business that was just starting to blossom would survive. 

Picture: courtesy of Sapaudia Brewing Co

The support from the French government was nothing short of incredible,” he said. “If we had set up in the UK, I think we’d be gone. Speaking to friends in the UK who have businesses – the difference in the financial support we received was night and day.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever complain about paying URSSAF stuff again after the help we got.”

Even with all the help, times were hard. Neither Tim nor 43-year-old Ash could afford to pay themselves any wages from Sapaudia during the long lockdowns. “It was a case of reduce spending, pay the necessary bills – rent, electricity and stuff – and just try and fight through.”

Pivoting from working with businesses, such as bars, to sales with individuals was not straightforward, though they tried. “We’re set-up to do keg sales – getting in bars, on tap,” Tim said. “We did flip a bit – we tried to sell bottles but we don’t have a proper bottling machine. We’re not set up to do thousands of bottles a day. We did some 5-litre mini kegs which sold pretty well around Christmas time.

“But it was tough, especially round here. It’s a massive tourist area, everyone’s business was decimated. People have tightened their belts and haven’t been spending.” 

The business came through the Covid lockdowns intact. And it is now operating flat out. “As soon as everything opened up, orders started to come back – and they came back really strong,” Tim said.

“I was worried we wouldn’t be able to pick up where we’d stopped. I didn’t know how the market was going to be, but it was almost like nothing had happened. It was – bang – back to where we were.”

And the first close-to full winter season after Covid was just what the brewery needed – despite a scare when British holidaymakers were stopped from travelling by concern over the Omicron variant.

“This winter’s been massive. Everyone needed a big winter. The Brits getting banned from travelling back in December was a bit of a kick in the teeth for a lot of people. But, from February onwards … I can always tell how busy a week’s been by how many empty kegs we get back in a week. The week the British returned, our distributor had to bring a lorry – there were six pallets of empty kegs. I thought “yeah – the Brits are back”.

More official help for the business came when they were looking to hire a full-time employee. Pôle emploi offered to pay the wages of a local worker during a 12-week formation – and give Sapaudia €5 an hour on the promise he was given an open-ended CDI contract at the end of the period. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Having lived in France since 2017, neither Tim nor Ash – both of them originally from Stockton-on-Tees – found any problems applying for post-Brexit titres de séjour. 

“Politically Brexit bothered me,” Tim said. “Personally, I was here and had all the paperwork, so when I went for my carte de séjour, it was almost too easy. “France made the system really easy and wanted people to stay.”

From a business point of view, however, there have been issues. “We used to work with UK suppliers – we used to get branded beer glasses from a firm in Halifax, and got other bits of promo material from Britain and we’ve had to stop using them. A lot of them won’t ship to us because it’s too much of a headache.

“The company that print the beer glasses told me they are not allowed now to print the CE logo onto the glass … we get our glasses from Germany now.

But he knows other local businesses have found it harder than they have. “The majority of our clients here are British-run bars and they struggled so much to get staff this winter.”

READ ALSO ‘So many barriers since Brexit’: The French ski businesses no longer willing to hire Brits

And, despite the forced two-year break due to Covid, Tim’s sure he and Ash were right to take a risk four years ago.

“No one saw the pandemic coming – I don’t think you’d take a risk on anything in life if you thought there’d be a pandemic round the corner. 

“In terms of our numbers, when we did our business plan, we’re exactly where we projected we’d be, with a two-year delay because of Covid. Everything’s going the way it should be, it’s just that we were put on pause.”

Now, they’re looking to grow, and take the business year-round.

“I just got off the phone this morning with an equipment supplier. We want to expand in autumn 2023. This winter we reached capacity of our current equipment – and we’re having to throttle sales back a little. 

“We’re massively seasonal – winter’s really big, and we’re working to make summer as big as winter so we have a distribution partner in Lyon and we’ve got a sales rep working in the west coast in the Hossegar area.

There’s a reason that their business plan jumps from the mountains of the east to the shores of the west. Many people who spend their winters in the Alps head for the surf towns of the Atlantic in the summer. The idea is to let word of mouth from the east spread their IPA gospel in the west, too. And in cans, too. Part of the next phase of the firm’s could include an online store, selling Sapaudia beer to individuals across France. 

 

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