A baker's crusade to revive the French bread bakery

All across France, the local boulangerie, according to a July 11 article in The New York Times, has fallen into decline in recent decades as some people have adopted carbohydrate-free diets and others have grown accustomed to buying bread at supermarkets and convenience stores that make their own, using cheap ingredients. In the process, bread aficionados lament, the quality of the average loaf has plummeted, and many traditional bakeries have closed.

Acclaimed bread baker Pascal Rigo has started scouting for shuttered boulangeries in small towns, hoping to overhaul their finances and reopen them, according to the Times article. The plan is to connect young bakers to defunct bakeries in communities with 2,000 or more people, 20 to 30 miles from a major city.

He is best known for founding La Boulange, a small chain of Bay Area cafe-bakery shops that he sold in 2013 to Starbucks for $100 million and is now resuscitating under a slightly tweaked name, La Boulangerie. 

His vision for France is a network of tiny bakeries, each operated by one baker, some with the help of a sales clerk. He plans to open at least four more this year in arcades, called Les Halles de Bacalan, that are being built by the developer Biltoki in southwestern France. The first will open on Oct. 15.

According to the Times, Rigo is negotiating a lease to open a P’tite Boulangerie in the 10th Arrondissement in Paris, and working to strike a deal with Biocoop, an organic grocery, to put the microbakeries in some of the chain’s 400 stores around the country by year’s end.

 "The problem is with the economics of the boulangerie, not the bread,” Rigo told The Times. “I’m going to show that you can make good bread and good money.”