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Customer buys two baguettes for €500 to help struggling French bakery

Village in north-west France came together to support a business struggling with high energy bills

Baguettes lying on the side in a French bakery

A bakery in northern France has been saved thanks to its loyal clients Pic: Philippe Ramakers / Shutterstock

A customer paid €500 for two baguettes in a bid to support a struggling French bakery

La P’tite Chouquette in the village of Saint-Suliac, Brittany, faced an uncertain future when energy prices began to soar last winter. 

When the prices of flour, butter and almond powder also increased due to the cost-of-living crisis, owners Céline and Laurent Zemmouche started to wonder if it was worth carrying on.

“I am always smiling at the till, so as not to worry customers,” Ms Zemmouche told French local news channel France 3. “But we started to wonder if it was worth carrying on. We even thought about leaving. What is the point in continuing to fight, ruining our health, getting up early in the morning when we have bills hanging around.

“My husband did not say anything. He worked and worked. But with all that, he lost 17 kg. We worry constantly about our little shop. 

“It has not paid its way in ages. I have not paid myself a salary in months. The priority was to pay our employees and suppliers.”

Then, one day, last winter, Ms Zemmouche told another shopkeeper in the village of barely 1,000 habitants that things were “complicated”.

The other shopkeeper recommended she start a fundraiser, but Ms Zemmouche refused. 

“I said I do not want to ask my clients for money. She said: ‘You will not be organising the fundraiser. I will.’” 

Read more: The French obsession with how long baguettes are baked for

€5,000 raised

The €5,000 raised by the fundraiser means, as Ms Zemmouche told France 3, the bakery was “able to get [its] head above water”.

Ms Zemmouche spoke warmly of her clients, repeating how some had apologised for only putting in €20, while she responded: “Thank you, that’s huge and even if you gave nothing, the fact you have stayed loyal to us, that is already a lot”.

One day a gentleman came into the bakery and asked for two baguettes tradition. He told Ms Zemmouche he wanted to give the bakery a hand and wrote a cheque for €500. Although she tried to tell him it was too much and tried to protest, he left, leaving her, as she said “open mouthed”. 

Some customers even came together to replace the shop window, to help the business save on its energy bills. 

“They carried out the work,” said Ms Zemmouche. “Some came with paint, others to do the lighting. The worksite started in the morning, our clients sometimes came in the morning, the others in the afternoon. It was incredible.”

Ms Zemmouche said she and her husband are lucky to have the community around them. 

“These are customers who proved to us that yes, it is worth fighting on. We are quite quiet people, we do not like making noise, but the thing we really want to do is to thank all these customers. They really helped us smile again.”

Read also

How French baguettes have become healthier

Meet the French baker using solar power to make bread

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