After spending two nights at beautiful and cosy hotel Jules et Jim, in Paris‘ artsy quarter le Marais, I had the pleasure of interviewing the charming owner Geoffroy Sciard at the Jules et Jim bar. He not only talked about the challenges to fulfill his dreams of opening a very special sort of hotel, but also told us about the places to go for coffee and dinner in Paris at the moment.
TB: Could you tell me a bit about yourself first?
GS: I would say about the two of us. Because I did not start the business all by myself but with a partner with a hotel backround. I worked in marketing and communication for big companies, than in smaller and smaller companies. Just before I started the hotel project I worked for a foundation called children heart foundation. The foundation helps children with heart deseases from third world countries to get treatment in france. Working for the Childrens heart foundation was one of the biggest experiences of my life. But when I found this place (pointing around him) I decided that it was time to found my own company. Already in 1998 when we took a year of to travel the world, my boyfriend and I had the idea to open our own hotel. At that time we did not think that it would be right here in Paris, but destiny brought us here. We discovered this place and I knew right from the beginning that this was it.
TB: So it was a Hotel before?
GS: No, it was a traditional gold and silver manufactory, typical for this area. Like you probably know, every quarter in Paris has its typical specialty in craftmansship. In this area it is jewellery. The manufactory was still running when we discovered the place, but they had to move for environmental reasons. So they had to sell and I was there at the right time.
In 2006 I went to the bank but they had their doubts, as I had no experience at all in running a hotel. I Had to find a partner. At that time Antoine joined the team. He had just sold his own hotel, that he had been running for twelve years. He was looking for a new challenge and I was looking for a partner. We have been successfully working together for the past 7 years. We are even planing on opening a second hotel as soon as we find the right place.
TB: That is a real success story, I might say!
GS: A success, I dont know, but for me it was a heard time. You know in france you can succeed, but you have to fight for it. Espacially whenever you face the administration, security, fire, etc. It is really complecated to satisfy everyone. But in those situations you test a good partnership. In our case it is a good partnership. Antoine has the experience and I have the passion. Antoine is really open minded, he let me spin some ideas to create not just another hotel but a place like home. Just the best standard, like good beds, quiet rooms, separeted toilettes etc. all those facts where important to Antoine and I. But we could also develop things that differentiate us from a simple hotel. In some areas the Hotel Jules et Jim is more like a guest house, more personal, I would say. With 23 rooms the hotel is quite small. I try to meet my guests and talk to them as often as I can.
TB: The way you are presenting the hotel Jules et Jim it is hard to ignore that you worked in marketing. I do not have to pose any questions, you are answering them before I can even ask. There must have been times when it was difficult though, I mean seven years is a long time. How did you manage to keep the spirit up?
GS: It has been hard sometimes during the five years, from 2006 when we started working for the project and 2011 when we finally opened the hotel. But you know, when I bought the ground from the two brothers, that had had their manufactory here for more than 30 years, very successfull businessmen, they told me:“ we whink you are crazy, but never doubt that you can succeed!“ During those 6 years I have been down sometimes, it has been hard and exhausting but in the end I never doubted the success in the end. Plus having a partner is just the best. I think without him I would not have succeeded.
To anticipate another of your questions: It was really important to me that the Hotel Jules et Jim was not just the reincarnation of the ego of the owner or an architect. This place had to live be itself. When you think of this hotel you do not think of a person, it has its own character. This is a composition of a team, Antoine and I and our architect, who is German by the way. He is living and working in Bordeaux. I am originally from Borgeaux. We also had a ligth designer I had worked with before. Plus an architect especially for the bar. We worked a lot on the spirit we wanted to creat. Interior, materials, to be very simple. All materials that age with time, natural materials. Alone you would not be able to manage, you have to have a great team.
TB: I imagine it to be difficult to open a hotel in Paris, as there are so many. It has to be very different in a way.
GS: I never thought about being different from others. We just wanted it to be special. We wanted it to be just like we loved it to be. There are a lot of places I do not like in Paris. Before we concepted the Jules and Jim we tried to gather as many references as possible. Good and bad once. There are also some very good places in Paris, that we took as a reference.
We have a lot of peaople staying here working in fashion. When they come here they know that they do not have to play the game, they can relax, there is no pressure. The bar is working very well. We wanted to have the bar to include the people living in Paris into the hotel. So people from Paris meet the people staying at the hotel. I hope that we managed to create a kind of diversity by bringing people together from all over the world.
TB: Would you have some recommendations for our readers?
GS: Of course I would love to. Around the hotel there are a lot of nice places. There is a lot of energy at the moment,
L’Aller-Retour (https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAller-Retour/168162446570624 ) 5, rue Charles François Dupuis – 75003
The patisserie « Bon Temps ». If you have time today, go there an test ! It is 57, rue de Bretagne. A dream
French American Backery (FAB / https://www.facebook.com/frenchamericanbakery) 48, rue du aubourg Saint-Denis – 75010. May be the best cookies in Paris…
Chez Georges 1, rue du Mail – 75002 Very nice exemple of French Brasserie. Excellent food.
Ameci Miei 44, RUE Saint-Sabin 75011. No reservation possible. One of the best italian in Paris (for me !)
Derrière restaurant 69, rue des gravilliers (http://www.derriere-resto.com/restaurant/paris/derriere/ ) For the place and the ambiance.