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Jérémy Manias interviewed by Stéphane Ebel

26 June 2024

In conquered staves


If Charlois’ DNA is the forest, and more specifically the oak, Jérémy’s DNA is Charlois. Having joined the company at the age of 21, this young man became passionate about the wood family. Take a look!


With Jérémy, time is time. And, as he’s rather early and punctual, I set two alarm clocks to make sure I was right on time. To spend a day with Jérémy is to immerse oneself into the Charlois family, into stave manufacture, into wood, into history. Until now production manager at Nièvre Merrain, Jérémy was recently asked to oversee primary processing at Maison Charlois (Murlin) and Ateliers du Chêne (Saint-Martin-du-Puy). He hesitated for some time before saying yes, and taking up a challenge made just for him. Made-to-measure.


Leading men

The day starts at Murlin, followed by Ateliers du Chêne in Saint-Martin-du-Puy and Nièvre Merrain, his Varzy home. One by one, shift by shift, Jérémy greets his colleagues with a firm handshake. “It’s important to come and see the guys, to say hello, to chat, to get the latest news, to check up on them. It’s also a chance to pass on information. While chatting, Jérémy keeps an eye on production, on stave boards freshly loosened and stacked. He marks time, backs up, grabs a stave from the pile: “This one’s no good, let’s plan it”. Over the years, he has learned to read wood by heart, and to respect and value the material. A rare and precious material. “There’s the job and the reality of the business world. Our raw material is rare and precious, and therefore expensive. We mustn’t waste it.”


Arrived in Nièvre at age 4

Jérémy is a Ch’ti. A guy from the North, from Lille. He arrived in Nièvre when he was just 4, following his father’s transfer. When the patriarch left home, Jérémy and his brothers and sisters were raised by their mother, a stone’s throw from Murlin, in La Celle-sur-Nièvre. School, college in Prémery, bike rides to Murlin. And soccer. A determining factor in more ways than one. He excelled on the pitches, forging a reputation as a bit of a bully. “I wasn’t the best with the ball, but I never gave up”. A trip to the Montceau sports-study center, and Jérémy understands that soccer isn’t how he’s going to make a living. Back into the family fold. He joins President Le Métayer’s La Charité club. A small job as youth team coach and stadium maintenance. Then he joined the army as a dog handler. This was followed by a few odd jobs in security, thanks to his military background, and, always and still, soccer. Contacted by a club playing in the higher divisions, Jérémy appealed to its president: “If you want to keep me, get me into Charlois! That’s what we call getting straight to the point!


Manias of stavewood

A few days later, Xavier Charlois welcomed the young Manias. “It was summer. I was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops,” recalls Jérémy. “Xavier asked me if I could start the afternoon. Given my summer outfit, it was a bit complicated. I was hired the following morning at 5 a.m. as a handler. That was 28 years ago.” At Charlois, he’s known as the “young lad”. At the age of 21, he learns from the old hands and develops a passion for wood, stave mills and all their jobs. I’m quite curious,” he says, “I like to understand what I’m doing and how it works. Brave, meticulous, determined, attentive, respectful… these are just some of the adjectives used to describe Jérémy. A man of character who never forgets where he comes from. A man of his word. A Charlois at heart. When he talks about Denis, he says Monsieur: “I have a deep respect for Monsieur Charlois (Denis), for Sylvain, for the company. If I am what I am today, it’s partly thanks to them, and no doubt to my work too.”


At work and in the field

Stave mills no longer hold any secrets for him. The knowledge he has acquired is passed on without complaint. It’s a team effort,” he says, “and that’s what I like about it too. It’s a bit like soccer. A determined player, a brave captain and a good coach, Jérémy is a leader. “To move in the same direction, you need cohesion, team spirit and shared values. It’s a whole. One person in his place and one place per person, in this case, the one where you perform best, where you’re most comfortable. That’s how you win soccer matches, and that’s how you become more efficient, more productive and more effective at work. It’s good to have good players in a team, but it’s even better to develop them in the right place and together.



Three questions to Jérémy:

Jérémy, at 49, you’ve been with the company for 28 years. By the time you retire, you’ll have spent more than 40 years at Charlois. What does that mean to you?

(silence – reflection)… I’ve never really thought about it, but it could indeed do that. And I have no intention to move company or region. I love my job and the environment. I love what I do. I’ve blossomed here as a man. I’m very grateful. It’s very rewarding to work here. I didn’t know anything about the woodworking industry. When I came here, I thought I’d stay for a year or two and then look for something else. Well, I guess I liked it here.


What do you think of your career?

Above all, I think that life sometimes comes down to a few things. Before going back to Charlois, I had to go back to Lambiotte in Prémery. The weekend before, I sprained my foot. So I wasn’t able to hire there. I might as well tell you that I don’t regret it. I started at the bottom of the ladder. Step by step, I took on more responsibility. That’s the great thing about Charlois. You work, you progress. There’s a logic to it. I remember when I first started working at Murlin, my mother used to walk past. She was sad to see me working there. She thought I deserved better. I used to tell her I was doing well, that I liked the job and what’s more, I got a good paycheck at the end of the month. Now I’m fine, she’s happier with what I’ve become.


And what about the company and its development?

Let’s just say it’s not much like it was 28 years ago. When I arrived, there was only Murlin and the sawmill in Givry. Over the years, the company has grown into what it is today. And it’s probably still going strong. Sylvain has always been a visionary, a passionate man. I enjoyed working with him, as I did with Monsieur Charlois. I learned a lot. Despite everything, the values have remained the same, and we have to make sure we pass them on, just as we do our know-how.



Photography © Christophe Deschanel



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