Before her departure far from Chartres, Christine, the manager of the bar Le Rustic shares her memories

Before her departure far from Chartres, Christine, the manager of the bar Le Rustic shares her memories

This is the story of an agoraphobic accountant who does not drink alcohol and who is now bowing out as the boss of one of the most popular bars in Chartres. But it would be too easy to get to the end of the course without considering the many detours that Christine’s path has taken.

For the eleven years that she has managed the Rustic, Christine Cottaz has become a figure in the world of Chartres nightlife. Because the Rustic is one of those places where we know the name of the manager as much as that of the establishment, which always gives the feeling of inviting yourself to a friend’s house. She describes :

“Little young people came to my house when they were barely twenty years old, and ten years later, they still meet here to meet up. »

Christine Cottaz (patron saint of the Rustic)

While the interview is taking place around a table on her terrace, she is interrupted in her confidences by no less than a dozen people who greet her and seek conversation. “I see customers who will soon be leaving, because I didn’t go chatting with them,” she smiles, puffing out the smoke from her cigarette.

The road was far from straight when Christine, born in 1964 in Digny, moved away from her family and began studying typing at the Pigier school, with her daughter, Aurélie, in the pram. “I was barely 20 years old. »

She will eventually be an accountant in her ex-husband’s construction company. The family moved to Fruncé in 1989, to get away from the pollution of the Paris region and relieve Aurélie’s asthma attacks. “My life revolves around my children,” she says, her chin up.

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Christine’s job suits her: “I am agoraphobic. It manifests itself in anxiety and dizziness that sometimes go as far as discomfort when I feel oppressed by the world around, ”she explains, waving her fuzzy bun. She develops:

“At work, I didn’t see many people, I had my office and I hardly ever left it. At first, we tell ourselves that it does not matter, we just avoided restaurants and bars, even on vacation. »

Christine Cottaz (patron saint of the Rustic)

Until the day of separation. “There, you take a pie: no more husband, no more house, no more job. In the meantime, the family has grown: Sébastien and Benjamin joined their eldest in 1987 and 1993.

The first evening, Christine goes down to the cellar to breathe

Passionate about the guitar, she steeled herself and managed to afford lessons with a friend, Fred. “He was the one who first brought me to Rustic. She is 46 years old, the bar is for sale, she buys it, with her daughter and her son-in-law. To move forward, to “bounce back”. “I haven’t had an easy life, it’s always been in my nature to be a fighter. And then, it’s through, there’s an entrance and an exit…” A reassuring vision of an escape that calms his phobia. Her first day at work was with Jean, Aurélie’s now deceased husband. A moving memory? ” It was horrible ! she exclaims. The first evening, Christine goes down to the cellar to breathe. And little by little, she resurfaced.

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This bistro which withstood the bombardments of the Second World War, cramped between two larger buildings, she models it in her image: she makes it welcoming. The old tiles on the ground jump, new toilets are installed. It’s important because “before, the clientele was almost just guys. The bar is dark and the alley behind…it was a bit of a cutthroat. Her favorite music is reggae, but at home, the tablet connected to the speakers is unlocked for everyone and the musical atmosphere is like the clientele: eclectic. “We receive students, single people… and then from eleven o’clock, everyone mixes. »

Behind the historic facade of the pub is an upstairs apartment. Christine uses it “to help out people in need”. She decorates the troquet, a touch of Senegal on the walls, a country where she has been going on vacation about twice a year for thirty years.

Nature and animals help him breathe

In Nianing, she likes the relationships between people, she finds there “the essential”, that means for her, family closeness. And then “children and animals are everywhere”, the only beings with whom she says she feels good.

Life in the countryside is what appealed to her when she put down her suitcases in Eure-et-Loir. “I have to get up with the birds singing. At home, we always had rabbits, guinea pigs… Aurélie rode a horse before she could walk. Me, before, I was afraid of it… » Can you guess the rest? Next to his house in Jouy stands a stable, where 26 horses are currently sleeping. Most of it does not belong to him, it is his daughter who takes care of the breeders’ mounts. But the mother is never far away: “I need to be listened to by the animals to listen to the people at Rustic. » Question of balance. In the countryside as in the city, Christine imposes on herself a “square lifestyle”. “If you want to run a bar, you mustn’t drink. »

A legacy… and a transmission

There is something that comes back systematically in the speech of Christine, who works today with her daughter, it is the transmission. She asserts:

“It’s a family story, the Rustic! And it always has been. We go to the essentials when we work as a family. Before me, it was Jeff who ran the bar, with his wife and daughter. »

Christine Cottaz (patron saint of the Rustic)

And after ?

The manager’s daily life is turned upside down as the Covid-19 epidemic confines France. Anxious to have “nothing to do” in the early days, Christine, now grandmother of four grandchildren, discovered the pleasure of enjoying her family. First trigger: “I realized that there was another life”. Then, his health problems and those of Aurélie turn on the red lights, “even if my head is still 20 years old”, she assures.

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The decision is made: Christine and her small family will settle in the future near the Spanish border. They may open a tavern, or work with the horses. Looking straight, she confides:

“I liked everything about Rustic. It made me happy. I leave with great regrets. It’s a beacon of hope for agoraphobes. »

Christine Cottaz (patron saint of the Rustic)

As for the succession, she maintains: “What I want is for it to stay in the family. “So before the fall, she will hand over to another mother-daughter duo from Chartres: Nolwenn Chivard, a waitress with whom she has worked regularly for eight years, who buys the business with her mother, Sylvie Quouillault. Moreover, the name of the bar, which Christine inherited, will not change: “It was the condition. »

Before turning the page, Christine will organize farewell concerts with the musicians she has so often invited to perform in front of her clients. The circle is complete. So is it the bar that bears the imprint of the matriarch or, ultimately, is it Christine who was made for the place? Like the facade, colorful and authentic, which stood there at the beginning of what was a small rue de la Soif, like her customers, loyal and frank, Christine gave a soul to the Rustic which remains in the walls and memories of night owls.

The facade of the bar Le Rustic is one of those buildings, witnesses of another time, that one contemplates while strolling in the streets of Chartres. As its owner prepares to take off for a new life, she found in her drawers old billing documents for customers of what was once a grocery store that also served as a snack bar. On the header of the papers, one can read “La Vieille Maison du Café, founded in 1859 – Léon Dollon”. Protected between two buildings higher than it, the building then resisted the bombardments of the Second World War, before becoming a bar where there was a games room, with billiards and pinball.

Lea Trottier

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