In a true retelling of many a French tale of solidarité, a struggling village shop has been saved by the local community it serves.
Corinne Flatry opened Le Comptoir de Co, a grocery shop in the small town of la Côte-Saint-André, Isère, in 2019, selling organic and local produce to the 4,500 strong local community.
But by 2023, the little grocery shop was struggling to pay its bills: “Business had become much worse by spring 2023. The bank account was empty and I could not pay myself a salary,” said Ms Flatry. By June, she knew that it was time to call it a day.
On June 24 she announced that Le Comptoir de Co had to shut its doors for good. But by July, and in response, her customers were banding around her, forming a cooperative to save her shop.
Together with Ms Flatry, the new collective soon had 140 members. They then launched and appeal on the crowdfunding website Tribee, which, within a month, had raised Є5,000 to purchase stock.
The fund has now raised over €5,500.
“We don’t want to see Le Comptoir de Co close. It is a wonderful, warm and lively place, so close to our own hearts,” announced the new cooperative, “we want Corinne to continue to bring life to this wonderful baby that she created”.
The cooperative will share the financial burden of buying stock and help Ms Flatry run it, with members paying between Є100 and Є300, and working there for two hours a week.
“We think that the model for a small business cannot work if it is just the burden for one person struggling to get by. Only a group of engaged ‘cooperative customers’ can make it work,” said the cooperative on Facebook.
For many years local shops have been in decline in France, particularly in rural areas, according to a study undertaken for the Assemblée Nationale.
While in 1975, 53% of shoppers would walk to do their shopping, this percentage fell to 17% in 2010, However, there have been some changes in consumer habits since the Covid-19 pandemic with many consumers preferring to walk again for local produce, while ordering other consumer goods online.
Corinne is delighted by both the development and the media attention her story has generated, “I’m seeing stars”, she told France Television.
The revamped shop will reopen as a cooperative in September. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the cooperative at firstname.lastname@example.org