How Butchers and Bakers Survive in France

The French have preserved their little, local butchers and bakers despite the growing chains of supermarkets. How can we?

Credit: Flickr / Antenne

Small shops are a regular part of life in France

Think of supermarkets as a doctor’s visit and the specialty store as your daily vitamins


In Canada it seems that we often have to choose between cheap from a supermarket/chain store or horrendously expensive from an artisan or specialty store. I’ve always presumed that these prices were relative; that the specialty baker only seemed expensive because supermarkets had become so cheap. But I’m beginning to think that it’s my fault. And yours.


Although I quite like food shopping, lots of people tend to want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Super-Market to the rescue, everything you need in one space, much like a regular (i.e., not “super”) market.


Shopping patterns in France

Recently, I’ve been buying 80-cent baguettes and 3-euro Camemberts from the quaint little shops that pepper the cities and towns of France. Somehow the supermarket and the “little-man” live side by side. I credit this largely to different shopping customs here. Supermarkets tend to be viewed as a regular big trip to stock up on all those staple items, like flour, rice, Coca-cola, wine. But the specialized shops are still very much a part of life here too.


Bread is bought every day or two from the baker, cheese weekly from the market. And because these visits are regular, the small shops have enough demand and security to be able to run a profitable but affordable business.


Specialty shops in high demand

I took a quick poll one morning as I heading down to the Antibes market. In the 300 metres (about 3 or 4 blocks worth) between my friends’ house and the market there were myriad specialty stores. In fact, there were so many that specialty seems the wrong word. Food stores. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I saw:


             > Bakery – 5

             > Charcuterie – 1

             > Convenience store – 1

             > Fromagerie – 1

             > Liquor – 2

             > Poissonerie – 1

             > Supermarket – 1

             > Café – 3

             > Restaurant – 12

             > Sandwich/gelato bar – 4


(This list doesn’t include all the restaurant and food stores in and around the market.)


Compare that to your local neighbourhood… What specialty shops are within walking distance? What shops would you frequent were they available?