The oldest bakery in Paris — Boulangerie Patisserie Au Grand Richelieu, dating back to 1810 — will close after over 200 years in business because of rising rent and real estate prices.
Claude Esnault, the current baker has been in charge for the past 43 years, but he told Reuters he has been forced to close down after his landlord doubled the rent.
“Napoleon could have come here,” said Claude.
The rent is about to rise from 18,000 euros ($22,860) per year to 35,000 euros ($44,450) per year, he said.
“I would like to have seen someone take over the bakery. But I know it will close, it will die. It’s an end – a sad end,” Claude said.
“I feel sorry for the people who live in the neighborhood. The absence of local facilities will make the area dead. It’s like in a village, when there is no bakery and no school – it seems dead.”
The bakery is close to the Louvre museum in an area where property prices have soared. Local customers have forsaken the bakery in favor of Sushi bars and sandwich shops.
Reuters reports the new tenants will turn the shop into a candy store, selling sweets instead of bread.
According to a travel tailored website, Claude Esnault was a farmer’s son in Normandy before moving to Paris in 1963 and learning the art of the boulanger.
“He acquired his current bakery and pastry shop six years later, turning the compact storefront on the Rue de Richelieu into an operation that — at its peak — produced some 4,000 baguettes per day.”
Under Claude’s direction, the bakery had produced a daily output of 400 baguettes, along with some 200 croissants, 150 pains au chocolat, and a large variety of pastries. Customers included residents and restaurants in the neighborhood.
Claude was assisted by his wife, daughter, another baker, and a pastry cook.
“The store was open seven days a week, with the staff working both upstairs (where bread is mixed, risen, and baked) and down in the basement (where croissants and other pastries are made, and which is reached via a steep ship’s ladder).”
One French customer told Reuters:
“Everything becomes impersonal, when you can get your baguette anywhere and you don’t chat to the shop keeper anymore. I suppose that’s tomorrow’s world, with the human aspect disappearing. It’s too bad.”