Paris kiosks celebrate 150 years. My interview with "kiosquier" Jacky Goubert.
|Jacky Goubert (right) and his daughter Gaelle.|
From April 17 until April 21, Paris is celebrating the 150th anniversary of one of the most iconic symbols of the French capital - its kiosks. On Friday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacky Goubert and his daughter Gaelle, who operate the kiosk on the Boulevard Saint-Germain between Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. It's where I buy the International Herald Tribune whenever I'm in the neighborhood.
MK: This has to be one of the best kiosks in Paris. How were you able to get the concession for it?
Jacky: Normally, it's not possible to pass a kiosk from parent to child because they are only licensed and not purchased from the city. But somehow my mother arranged for me to take it over when she retired. She started working here in 1972.
MK: I've noticed that different kiosks offer different magazines. Do you select the ones that you want to sell?
Jacky: No. The company that manages the kiosks for the city of Paris sends us the newspapers and magazines that are popular in our neighborhood. We get a lot of ones about interior design.
MK: What is the best selling French newspaper?
Jacky: Le Monde.
MK: And magazine?
Jacky: Of the biweekly publications, it would be Elle. But for the monthly ones it's Vogue.
MK: Which newspaper do you read?
Jacky: Le Parisien, the local paper.
MK: I would imagine that quite a few of your clients are tourists. Is there anything that you would like to tell future visitors about shopping at a kiosk?
Jacky (without hesitation): Yes! Don't be afraid to buy Pariscope. People always ask if there's a magazine with information about events in English. There isn't. Even though Pariscope is in French, I think that a non-French speaking person should be able to understand it. Ok, maybe not all of the interviews, but they will certainly understand the information about the current exhibitions and shows.
MK: When I first arrived, you were eating your lunch in the kiosk. It must be hard to take a break. What hours do you work every day?
Jacky (looking at his watch): Well, I've been working since the kiosk opened at 5:30 this morning. It's open until 11:00 pm from Monday to Saturday and until 8:00 pm on Sunday. We're almost never closed because people expect to be able to buy a newspaper when they visit the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. We divide the work in three shifts so I'll be going home soon.
MK: Are your customers mainly tourists or locals?
Gaelle (responding to my question while Jacky covers the magazines with a tarp to protect them from the rain): It's difficult to say. There are a lot of people from the neighborhood who pass by every day. They stop for a chat and to tell us how they're doing. Sometimes they even bring us croissants for breakfast, especially on Sundays. People from all walks of life buy their newspapers here, from street cleaners to Catherine Deneuve. One day my colleague was doing a crossword puzzle and couldn't think of the first name of a television star. He turned to one of our customers and asked for the answer because it was the same star whose name was in the puzzle.
MK: You must have all kinds of interesting anecdotes about people. Is there anything that customers do that you don't like?
Jacky and Gaelle (in unison): Yes! When they enter the kiosk and don't close their umbrellas.
Jacky: The water ruins the newspapers and magazines. One day there was a woman who came inside with a dripping umbrella. When I asked her to close it, she said that it wasn't wet. After asking her again, she finally snapped the umbrella shut. It sprayed water everywhere, including all over me. Then she set it down on top of the art magazines, the most expensive ones. When I asked her to move it, she insisted that her umbrella was dry. The magazines were obviously wet so I said, "Oh, then I suppose that it was my magazines that got water on your umbrella." She left in a huff.
MK: With more and more publications offering online editions, are you worried about the future of print media?
Jacky: No. I think that there will always be people, like me, who prefer holding a newspaper or magazine in their hands. There's something about opening a newspaper, the noise that it makes when you turn the page, that you don't get when reading something online. There was a magazine that I had been reading ever since it first appeared, when they decided to only offer it online, I stopped reading it. I liked reading the magazine in bed, before I went to sleep at night. You can't do that when you have to read it on a computer. Look at Newsweek. They decided to be a digital only entity but now they're offering a print magazine again [available only in Europe, the Middle East and Africa].
MK (addressing question to Gaelle): Would you like to take over the kiosk when your father retires?
Gaelle: No, I'm just helping him right now. I don't want to do it on my own. Physically, it's very hard work. Some of the individual magazines weigh 2 kilos which makes it very difficult to move entire stacks of them.
MK: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Jacky: In 2011, it was decided that kiosks could supplement their income by selling souvenirs, drinks and snacks. We're one of the few remaining kiosks in Paris that only sells print media.
The next time that you're on your way to a cafe, please buy a magazine or newspaper from one of the 340 kiosks in Paris. We want them to be in business for another 150 years. Just be sure to close your umbrella before entering the kiosk if it's raining!
Please click here to see a map with the locations of all the kiosks.
|Jacky Goubert's kiosk at 170 Boulevard Saint-Germain.|