English Expat French Village Tea Shop Goes from Strength to Strength
One of the reasons we started the salon de thé was to raise funds for the association. If we had any idea of running it as a business, it quickly became clear it hardly generated any real revenue. It definitely didn’t justify the time and effort we put in, so why do we always say it was a success?
It really depends on how you measure success.
2014 was a disastrous year for local businesses in Bassan.
Two of the most essential services in any French village, the café-bar and the bakery, both closed with almost no notice. Suddenly there was nowhere to sit with a coffee and read a newspaper, or buy a freshly baked cake.
We arrived with our alien idea of “an English tea shop in a French village” at just the right moment and at least for the moment we’ve succeeded in filling the gap.
Yesterday was our busiest day so far and the business was surprisingly consistent, without the peaks and troughs we’ve seen on other days.
We have a growing number of happy, satisfied, regular customers.
There’s the lady with the poodle we see almost every day. And the group of older guys who sit in the same corner every morning drinking coffee after coffee. And the “assistants maternel” – child-minders – who stop for a cup of tea to break up their morning pram-push round the village.
We succeed every time we bring a smile to someone’s face, like the first time customer who only paid a euro for her mug of coffee.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. It’s only hot water!”
If you judge by Jacqueline’s home made cakes and biscuits, we’re a huge success.
We had nothing but crumbs left of two giant wheels of Bakewell Tart, mostly eaten on site but some taken home, trusted and enjoyed as the work of a “vrai pâtissier” – a true professional pastry cook.
We even became, in a small way, victims of our own success. We serve tiny home made butter biscuit stars with the tea and coffee. What seemed like two days’ supply when we started at 8 am was a pot of crumbs before 10.30.
This turned into a mid morning relay race back to the house. I turned the oven on, then Jacqueline ran back to bake more biscuits. I was about to have to disappoint one of of our regular customers, who had just asked me why she didn’t have her usual side order of stars, when the oven-warm reinforcements arrived. Just in time.
So how do we measure our success?
We’re beginning to be seen as members of the community, not just a couple of isolated incomers.
We’re losing count of the number of times people thank us for doing something that others enjoy, or ask, “Are you going to carry on past the end of the month?”
We have the confidence that moving here was the right decision.
For the time being, it’s “all of the above”.