Sad scenery for the end of life. Outer walls covered with a thick layer of dirt, a carcass emptied of its entrails. A funeral without flowers or crown for Bobigny 2, a monolithic concrete monster placed on a slab, a vestige of a bygone era.
Inaugurated in 1974, the shopping center will close its doors for good on Sunday. This destruction was recorded in 2016 with the launch of an ambitious and vast renovation project in downtown Bobigny.
To speak of a painful death for Bobigny 2 is a no-brainer. While at the time of its splendor, the gallery had fifty stores, including big names (But, Orange, McDonald’s…), there are only ten left. So, of course, customers are scarce and you can almost hear the footsteps echoing on the ground, the main alley is so deserted and the silence impressive, only occasionally interrupted by the sound of jackhammers.
“This closure is like a hammer blow to the head”
“This closure is like a hammer blow to the head,” confirms Djamila (the first name has been changed), 57 years old, one of the nine employees of the halal butcher who will soon be unemployed.
“Bobigny 2 deserved a better ending. We deserved a better ending, she insists. Such a waste ! Why not have everything closed at the same time? I do not understand. I would have liked to leave happily, organizing a drink with the colleagues. There, it is not possible. Djamila, who has worked here for 20 years, has a lot on his heart. “I’m in mourning, at the end of my rope,” she sobs.
For her, “it all ended on September 13, 2019. On that day, the Halles d’Auchan closed. They left us in the dark. We were abandoned. There is no such thing as a shopping center without a supermarket. »Djamila speaks loudly but she does not exaggerate the importance of this date. Since then, life in Bobigny 2 has been akin to a kind of Chinese torture, slow, cruel, which wounds to death without dealing the fatal blow. The best proof: even today, on the entrance doors, large yellow signs informing customers that “stores remain open after the Halles close”.
“Aren’t you going to complain about a butcher anyway?”
“Overnight, customers disappeared,” says Djamila. But there’s still life, you want me to show you? Neither one nor two, we set off to discover his “home”. Direction the pharmacy. Where a few people wait patiently for the owner to give his (many) advice to a client, while hearing from the whole family.
In the queue is Rachida. “Oh my beautiful! How are you ? »Asks Djamila. “Stop, I’m going to cry,” Rachida answers. I have everything to be happy but it is too sad, this closure. “But aren’t you gonna whine about a butcher anyway?” bully her friend. You’ll see, it’s great what they’re going to build instead, there are going to be plenty of stores. “
“The Bobigny 2 spirit”
In good stead of the place – the “boss”, according to the faithful of Bobigny 2 – Djamila tries to boost the morale of the troops. But, this time, his advice is pschitt. “I can’t get used to the idea that Bobigny 2 will close, sighs Rachida, 65, who lives in the city of Paul-Vaillant-Couturier. Here is my life. For forty years, I passed two or three times a day there. It was my little walk, I met friends, we were a big family. I forgot my worries. “
No time to finish the conversation with Rachida, here is the thunderous Lorry who arrives. “How are you guys?” »Launches the West Indian woman in her sixties. While rooming the pharmacist for his slowness, she offers a grandmother sitting on a bench to take her to mass on Sunday by car. “There, that’s it, the Bobigny 2 spirit”, smiles the boss, who lived in the city for twenty-six years before moving to Stains.
Ikea had chosen to open its first French store there
These scenes, banal perhaps but unexpected in these deserted places, had something dizzying, transporting us to a time forever gone, the blessed era of the 1980s. “When we thought of the next, when Bobigny was a city that moved. Now, we think that his mouth and Bobigny has become a dead, dirty, poor city, ”says Djamila, who does not want to be photographed so that his image is not associated with this sad end. “This is also why all the good customers left. “
“Mammoth was there, everyone loved this supermarket, remembers Rachida. There were lots of people, we were talking to the cashiers, to the other customers. It was great. “
The gallery has indeed known its heyday. Ikea even chose Bobigny 2 in 1981 to open its first French store. Seven years earlier, its inauguration had been a beautiful celebration to which all Bobigny had rushed. “I had just given birth, so I couldn’t go, but my whole family had gone there,” Rachida recalls.
Those happy times are over. And the good mood reigning in the pharmacy turned out to be only a fleeting illusion. The butcher left, the ranks emptied and an icy silence settled again. Reality brings us inexorably back to 2020. And in 2020, once past the dispensary, to find a little life in the shopping center, you have to walk along dozens of lowered metal curtains and walk 150 meters to a fast-food Asian.
In the restaurant, retirees are chatting hysterically sitting around a table, drinking their coffee. “We are regulars, we have been coming for ten years,” says the spokesperson for the troop, Mohamed. We’re here all day. We are fine here, it is a central place, easy to access. We can only drink a coffee during the day, we are told nothing. The discussion of the moment? The world after. “We really don’t know what we’re going to do, we’re trying to work with the town hall to find a place. But hey, all of that will be missed for sure. “
The inhabitants therefore loved “their” Bobigny 2. All the more so as the attachment of the locals to their center seems intergenerational. Because one cannot suspect Loune and Kylie, smart 22-year-old students crossed at the Chicken Spot, to give in to the sirens of nostalgia. And yet, the two cousins had a small heartache when they found out.
“We are very surprised because we often come,” explains Kylie between two bites of a burger. We like to do small errands there. We are sad because it is quiet. There is a special atmosphere and then, here, we are at home! “