When Dave and Nikky Field first moved to France in 2013, they fulfilled their dream of owning a vineyard.
As former farmers, caring for 20,000 vines was well within their comfort zone and they spent eight happy years producing wine in Gironde before deciding to do something different.
Vineyard owners to shopkeepers
“We had been farmers for a long time and it takes its toll physically. It seemed the right time for a change,” explains Nikky, 54.
Having enjoyed buying and selling everything from furniture to farmyard equipment in the past, they decided to open a brocante and invited their daughter Hannah, 28, her husband Grant, 33, and their son Logan, now four, to join them from the UK.
“At the time, they had a mortgage and a young baby, and were struggling to find a work-life balance. Plus, they had skills we knew would be invaluable for our new business – Hannah is a photographer, and both are great with IT,” says Nikky.
The plan was for Nikky and David to purchase a property, with enough room for Hannah and Grant to convert part of it into a separate family space.
All four would buy into the business and become equal partners.
Glitterballs going round
The property hunt started in 2020.
“We weren’t sure what type of building we were looking for, but knew it had to be spacious with good road links,” says Nikky.
Unexpectedly, they discovered the perfect type of property to suit their needs – nightclubs.
“We looked at an old nightclub in Charente one day in March 2020 and, while it wasn’t quite right, we realised that this type of building could be a great space to display the kind of retro items we hoped to sell,” says Nikky.
In summer 2020, the pair discovered Le Sunshine – a former club near the banks of Lac de Bournazel, a 32-hectare lake in Corrèze.
The club was built in the 1970s but had shut down five years previously.
“The owners had literally closed the doors and left everything in situ,” says Nikky.
“When we walked in, it was pitch black. The estate agent flicked on the lights and there were glitterballs going round – the full works!”
As well as 300m² of usable space where the nightclub had once been, the property came with a 160m² living area and terrace above, a 120m² garage and half a hectare of land.
The building is set by a lake and grassland owned by the commune, with just four other properties around it – one private residence, two cafes and a campsite.
This means there is plenty of land in which to stroll and play, with the advantage of not being responsible for all the maintenance.
The entire property was for sale at €220,000, plus costs.
After buying it in November 2020, the families spent several months seeking planning permission and creating a habitable space for Hannah, Grant and Logan.
Initially, Nikky and David moved in and work began in January 2021.
The roof was replaced by professionals at a cost of €60,000, and the remainder of the renovation was done by them, including converting the garage into a two-bed home for Hannah, Grant and Logan.
It cost the couple €50,000.
The families then spent a further €50,000 levelling the nightclub floor, repairing, and decorating the brocante.
“For the most part, we have used furniture to create zones but we have one area that is round, which now has a circus tent theme.
“The rest of the décor is a nod to the building’s previous life.
“We have splashes of colour to represent the lights of the former nightclub, set off by black and white shadowing. It works really well as a backdrop to some of the colourful items we sell,” says Nikky.
Nikky and David’s living quarters remain untouched for the moment: “We haven’t managed to get on to that yet, so our space remains very 1970s – right down to the carpeted walls.”
The brocante opened last Easter and showcases a variety of items.
“We focus on vintage and retro items from the 1960s to the 1990s,” says Nikky.
“We have a lot of designer and named items, as well as other period pieces. There is something for everyone: prices range from 50 cents to €5,000.”
As well as proving a great place to run a brocante, with its easy road access and open interior, Le Sunshine is a proving a talking point for locals and visitors alike.
“People remember the old club and are fascinated to come in and see the interior,” says Nikky.
“We have had interesting conversations with people who feel disorientated by the fact that it both is and isn’t the building they remember.
“Then the stories start coming out. So many people knew it, grew up with it. We have had people aged from 20-something to 60-something telling us how they used to dance here.
“Some even met the love of their life on the nightclub dancefloor.”