So it looks like we’re going to lose our bakery. I’m pretty sure that some of our Loyal Readers and such have had some of their bread: Patrick and Teresa, Miss Nancy, I know that I’ve brought you loaves from Le Rendez-Vous (corner of Bridge Street and Main Street, Colebrook). Folks who went to Moose Festival, I’m pretty sure that you’ve had some too.
That’s our favorite spot for going over galleys—big tables, they don’t mind writers hanging out, they make the coffee, and there’s pastries. That’s why The Apocalypse Door mentioned Le Rendez-Vous in the acknowledgments. Our author photo for Land of Mist and Snow was taken there.
So what to my wondering eyes should appear in the newspaper this week but this?
State officials and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office are working to help Le Rendez-Vous French bakery owner Verlaine Daöron, stranded in her native France after having been denied a visa renewal. Her partner, Marc Ounis, has been operating the bakery and café on his own for the past month, and fears that he will have to close if Verlaine is unable to return.Before Le Rendez-Vous, folks who wanted fresh French bread had to drive to Coaticook (pronounced Quaticook), in Quebec. Looks like folks will have to do that again, soon. Why?
Over the past eight years Le Rendez-Vous has become a favorite meeting place and cultural center, where visitors can hear local music or exchange the news of the day. As one Lancaster resident recently stated, “It’s the envy of every town around you.”
That is precisely what Benoit Lamontagne, who works as an agent for the N. H. Department of Resources and Economic Development is hoping will help the situation. The criteria for a class E2 visa require the business to make a substantial profit, which it does not; the alternative is to prove that the bakery is vital to the local economy.“Substantial profit”? Who are they kidding. We’re talking about the North Country of New Hampshire here. We’re talking about “hardscrabble farming.” Just staying in business around here is showing a substantial profit, no matter what it might look like to Embassy people assigned to Paris, France. The Chrysler dealership in town closed last year. The Ford dealership in town closed in January of this year. And right now we’re waiting to find out (the decision will be reached this week) whether GM will close their dealership in town, leaving us with no car dealers (or factory service) closer than fifty miles away.
“Vital to the local economy.” Oh yes. Any vacant storefront on Main Street is a substantial percentage of the local economy.
“We continue to hope that the American Embassy in Paris will understand the importance of this establishment to Colebrook and Northern New Hampshire, and realize that they have made an error in denying the renewal of Verlaine’s E2 visa,” Mr. Lamontagne said on Monday. “I contacted DRED commissioner George Bald when Marc told me this had happened. He immediately called Sen. Shaheen’s office and they agreed to help. We have since been working on this, gathering data and making a case for Verlaine.”That was Wednesday’s News and Sentinel. Friday’s Colebrook Chronicle had this: Le Rendez-Vous May Soon Be Facing Decision
The clock is ticking for Le Rendez-Vous Bakery regarding whether it will be able to remain open in Colebrook.What else? There’s a petition going around. Doyle and I have signed it. We sent a letter to Jeanne Shaheen. Anyone who’s familiar with the place… please do the same.
On Tuesday, the Chronicle spoke with Marc Ounis, whose partner, Verlain Daeron, is in Paris after having been denied her E2 Visa renewal. He appeared resigned to the idea that it’s just a matter of days before he’ll have to make the decision to close up shop. We asked him what would be the cut off date for deciding to close the bakery and he tlod use, “When I run out of flour for making the bread, then I will have to close. And I have enough flour for less than two weeks.”
There have been many locally who have stepped in to help Ounis for free. Last weekend a group from Kheops International helped Marc run the business on a busy Saturday. Others have offered to handle the counter or help in any way possible. “I am very grateful to everyone,” Marc said.
To better understand the E2 Visa process, the Chronicle spoke with David West, owner of Liebl Printing in Colebrook. West is a citizen of England and is also in this country on an E2 Visa. He explained that until a few years ago, those in this country on an E2 Visa were not required to return to their home countries to get their Visas renewed. He explained that when the passport system was updated a few years ago, the embassies in the United Stated did not have the funds to upgrade their systems, and that is why so many E2 Visas are handled through the American Embassy in Paris.This may not seem like much to folks who live in big cites with six bakeries to the block, but it is a big deal up here. The only trick will be getting the American Embassy in Paris to agree.
However, as the volume of those looking for an E2 Visa increased, that embassy has not been able to keep up with demand and, once an application has been denied—such as Verlaine Daeron’s—it is highly unlikely that she will be returning to the U.S.
I would take it kindly if folks would link to this and write about it elsewhere.