Business of the month
A riverside restaurant in Yonne has it all as Sophie Gardner-roberts finds out
A riverside restaurant in Burgundy
Charles Green and Jill Collard ’s path to France was a whirlwind of travel, relocation and business activities so you can’t blame them for wanting a quieter life on the banks of a tranquil river in rural Burgundy. However, their latest venture running a café-bar and restaurant was such a success that they ended up working full-time there too.
“The auberge was intended to be our ‘retirement’ but we are victims of our success and are now too busy,” says Charles. “Our health has declined to the point where we can no longer cope.”
Let’s rewind to 1995 when the couple started a small tour-operating business planning European tours for American clients. Three years later, with Americans shying away from Europe, they moved to Florida and purchased a travel agency which they developed but then sold in 2000. This led to a move back to Europe and a long search for their dream house.
“We searched for a property in Italy and on the whole coast of France from Normandy to Monaco! Nothing ticked the boxes,” Charles remembers. They knew of the charms of Burgundy through work and visited the area on a whim. While there, they spotted an ad for a little auberge in Argentenay but could not follow through. So, as you do, they settled in Venice instead.
While on his way back to the UK for work, Charles drove by Tonnerre and decided to visit the property that had caught their eye. “It was raining, really miserable; there were cobwebs everywhere… but the grey, wet, miserable day did not distract from the wonderful location!” says Charles, who promptly rang Jill to tell her they had to go for it and make the most of the huge potential of the property.
After moving in, with their two cats, in August 2005 they started work. “We pulled down the false ceilings to reveal the lovely beams, replaced the walls, created a first floor and three ensuite bedrooms,” Charles explains. By 2009, they were ready to open, much to the delight of the locals, including the mairesse who thanked them for bringing life back to the little village. “We have been active in hosting special evenings, themed dinners, jazz and classical concerts,” says Charles.
Like many local village bars and restaurants in France, the Auberge au Bord de l’eau is the heart of the small community’s social life and Charles insists it is nothing like the cafés in the UK. The couple have created a friendly atmosphere and welcome many regulars while the proximity to the Canal de Bourgogne means the business draws customers from passing boats and barges.
The property is on the market for €180,000 and is being sold as a turnkey business. It includes a fully equipped commercial kitchen, a new boiler and category 4 licence to sell all alcohol. This also includes owners’ accommodation, a house adjacent to the restaurant with three spacious ensuite bedrooms, some with views of the river. While Argentenay has all the amenities you’d need, Tonnerre, with a hospital, banks and greater shopping services, is just 9km away. “Really there are no major jobs to be done – maybe some freshening up and a lick of paint to fit personal taste,” says Charles.
As the Armançon river flows gently by, lapping the roots of the plane trees that provide shade for the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, Charles and Jill sit planning for a peaceful and well-earned retirement; but they hope that the Auberge au Bord de l’eau will continue to thrive long after they leave.
The grey, wet, miserable day did not distract from the wonderful location
000 180, €