An entrepreneur mobilizes to save the businesses of his village in France

Claude Bellessort, 66, insists that his efforts for Arrou (Eure-et-Loir, Center-Val de Loire), where he has lived all his life like several generations of his family, are “normal”.

To avoid store closures, he invested € 500,000 to encourage people to take control of running their own businesses.

He said: “I have been retired for five years. I spent the last 20 years of my career as an entrepreneur with 35 employees and I loved it.

“I loved starting businesses and found that when I trusted people and offered them good working conditions and equipment, they always did a good job.

Mr Bellessort said he couldn’t stand idly by and watch businesses close in the village of 1,600 people.

“When I saw that the cafe was about to close, I found someone to run it, then I bought it and financed the renovation, and less than a year later it was in. new open.

“When I retired I sold my business so I had some money to invest and it seemed like the perfect project.” Two years later, he does the same as the bakery is about to close.

A baker who lived in the village but worked in another commune was interested in taking it back but could not afford to buy it.

So “Santa Claus” stepped in, bought it, refurbished it and installed the new manager.

“I like to pass on my knowledge. I like to encourage people to become entrepreneurs’

So it was no surprise when he stepped in to save the barbershop.

“I have quit now,” he said. “I am working on a new project to revitalize the village.

“We have set up a small business area on the edge of Arrou. Each plot has drainage and electricity, everything is ready for people to come and start businesses, but no one is interested. I want to attract plumbers, mechanics, businesses … so I set up a task force made up of accountants, entrepreneurs, lawyers, bankers, investors, entrepreneurs and others to identify the barriers.

“What is preventing people from settling here? Once we find out, we can remove the barriers and hopefully the park will thrive. “

He says, however, that he is not Santa Claus. “When you trust people, you build teams. I give what I received. Money is not the priority; the goal is to create fulfilling lives. It makes other people happy and it makes me happy – that’s what life is all about.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the disappearance of 25 to 30% of small rural food stores in France

A 1996 study by Professor Jean Soumagne of the University of Angers showed that 25 to 30% of small rural food stores in France disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s as they struggled to compete with supermarkets. located outside the city.

This had an isolating effect on people with reduced mobility or who did not have access to a car.

It has also left many main rural streets lined with permanently empty storefronts, creating a sense of a place frozen in time and deterring new businesses.

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