I am not a fan of pretty villages. They seem false somehow. Fake. They are superficially tarted up to entice you in, and then the gimmicky shops try to sell you irrelevant expensive tat.
La Gacilly does not fall within this category. Yes, it is a very pretty village. It is situated on a hill and the cobbled streets wind down to the river which runs through the bottom of the village. La Gacilly is a working village. There is a petrol station in the middle of the village. The pharmacy and estate agents aren’t hidden away. Amongst all the window boxes are over 50 artisanal outlets. Here craftsmen and women actually make the stuff they sell. The mix of artisans is impressive, there are artists, dressmakers, iron forges, millers, sculptures, glass blowers, chocolatiers, cobblers, felt makers, potters, carpenters… the list goes on. These outlets are real. Yes, they are shops… but they are more than that… they are workshops with a retail element.
I have never seen an empty retail unit in the winding streets of La Gacilly. I have often wondered how these talented artisans can make a living in a small unit in a village in rural Brittany where unemployment is high and the demand for luxury items must be low, particularly in this economic climate. Can they really survive on the tourist trade?
The answer must lie in clever promotion and town management to ensure nothing disrupts the excellent tenant mix of this vibrant village.
There is one business that dominates the outskirts of La Gacilly, Yves Rocher. From whatever direction you approach La Gacilly, you will pass through fields and fields of herbs and flowers, marigolds, poppies, daisies, and many more. The factories of Yves Rocher are also based at La Gacilly where all of the beauty products are made and packaged. The visitors centre is well worth a visit.
Yves Rocher has been around for years and has weathered many a difficult time selling luxury goods, so it clearly has the commercial know-how.
I should not have been surprised yesterday when I learned that the Mayor of La Gacilly was Jacques Rocher, Yves Rocher’s son! Yves Rocher was mayor for 30 years or so, and when he died 10 -15 years ago, the responsibility of being mayor fell to his son Jacques.
Surely there must be conflicts of interest. But La Gacilly is thriving. Yves Rocher brings a huge amount of publicity and tourists to La Gacilly and each year it hosts a huge outdoor photo exhibition where enormous photos are erected throughout La Gacilly. There is no doubt that Jacques Rocher is proactive. At Christmas time, all of the shops have wooden fascias tacked on to their shopfronts so they look more Christmassy.
The people of La Gacilly must be happy that any conflicts of interest are outweighed by the commercial knowledge and experience of the Rocher family as they have voted them in as mayor for the last 40 years!