Le Pertuis: at the Café du Col, we live to the rhythm of the RN 88

It’s 7 a.m. on Thursday. While clouds and sun tease each other above the ponot basin, motorists are already crisscrossing the RN 88. Nothing too abnormal so far! It is one of the main arteries of the department, on which nearly 15,000 vehicles rub shoulders daily.
Many traders, settled in the villages crossed by the National, take advantage of this influx. Like William Darne, 43, owner for eight years now of the Café du Col, located in the town of Pertuis. He is the last of his kind not to have lowered the curtain. The age of the premises is such that, for the oldest customers, trying to date its creation would almost be a quest for the Holy Grail. There is only one certainty: several owners have succeeded one another, sometimes giving it the functions of a drinking establishment, a restaurant, sometimes a petrol station.

The appearances of Roger Rocher and Michael Jones

When we arrived, the manager just put an end to a bit of a chat he had started with two regulars. The noise of the coffee machine almost drowns out that of the trucks, cars and motorbikes circulating around the establishment. “He’s been waiting for you for 5 hours,” laughs Jacky, 57, with keen curiosity. Every morning, the tiler by profession, resident of Bessamorel, stops there willingly to have his coffee, a newspaper in hand, before going to join one of his construction sites. “I come here out of habit. Sometimes, even if it’s not on my route, I pass anyway”.

“I come here out of habit. I feel good “

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A few minutes later. Claude, or rather “Claudus”, 73 years old, enters and sits on one of the stools. For nearly twenty years, this former municipal employee has also integrated a visit to the Café du Col into his morning routine. “I have been coming since I moved to the village. There are no others around and then, it allows me to meet people. Where I used to live, in Araules, on the edge of the Meygal forest, I only saw the postman”.
Pertuisian by adoption, he is somewhat the exception that proves the rule. Because, like Jacky, the clientele of the Café du Col is mainly passing through. When the traffic is heavy, she comes in numbers. Otherwise, William will not see a cat. The customer profile is just as changing. “It evolves throughout the day. It starts with the truck drivers, then the workers and a little later the tourists”, analyzes William Darne. There are the Altiligériens, but also those who come from a little further afield, from Lozère or even Haute-Savoie.
These incessant comings and goings have sometimes given rise to funny encounters like this time when Roger Rocher, president of AS Saint-Étienne during the club’s peak hours, came to have a bite to eat. “I didn’t recognize him…until he signed the check to pay for his order,” recalls William Darne.
Michael Jones, Franco-Welsh singer and guitarist very close to Jean-Jacques Goldman (with whom he co-wrote many titles including the very famous Je te donne, released in 1985) also stopped at the café. “Identified by a few customers, he ended up slipping away”.

A childhood dream come true

As a sign of fate, a few years later, in 1991, his father Michel Darne, then a mason, chose to acquire the premises.
While business is booming, William Darne struggles to make his dream come true. In 1995, he began studies to learn the basics of cooking. Four years later, with his diploma in hand, he was hired as a cook.
The years go by. The establishment is undergoing major renovations. The area is doubled and the spaces rearranged. As William acquires various skills, his father leaves him with more and more responsibilities. “It’s a real passion. What I like in this universe is the contact with people as different as each other. »
In December 2014, comes the moment of consecration: when he officially takes over the reins of the family business. “My father had decided to retire, so naturally I bought the business. We had a meal to celebrate this handover, ”recalls William Darne.

Fears related to the future of the establishment

The traffic intensifies on the RN 88. It is 8 o’clock and the Col café room is gradually filling up. Overalls and tailors set up at the four corners of the small main room.

“With the bypass, I’m afraid of losing 50% of my customers”

Meanwhile, Cindy Vigouroux, one of the two employees, has come to lend a hand at the bar, which allows William Darne to go to the kitchen. If the desserts are ready, he still has other dishes to cook. On the menu: quiche Lorraine, roast beef and potatoes. “We make between 20 and 30 covers on average per day”, specifies the forties, rather satisfied with this influx.
Nevertheless, with the RN 88 diversion project which will bypass Le Pertuis, the restaurateur fears that its attendance will drop sharply in the coming years. “There will be fewer passages. I’m afraid of losing more than 50% of my clientele”.
And it is not the latter that will reassure him. If some regulars like Dominique, who has been a loyal customer for 30 years, are thinking of keeping this reflex of coming to the Café du Col, finding “that there are good vibes”, others, on the other hand, are already planning to do the impasse on what they nevertheless consider today as an essential moment in their morning routine.

Dominique Lemoine


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