BE BELGIAN AND YOU’RE KING
– 22 July 2015 –
Born in Brussels in the discreet surroundings of a warehouse in Rue Dansaert or Porte de Namur, today they are the prodigal sons and daughters of our Kingdom. On the day after the national holiday, a quick overview of some black-yellow-red shops that have conquered the world…
- 1945: It’s a Lady…Godiva…
- 1953: Prémaman, a small shop that would grow big
- 1982: Olivier Dachkin, the conqueror
- 1990: Give us this day Le Pain Quotidien (our daily bread)
- 1999: The delicious story … of Exki
- 2001: Raidillon, a wonderful story of time
- 2015: Good things come to…
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Daring to aspire to such a venture required the audacity of Lady Godiva, a passion for chocolate and the organisation of an army. In 1926, the Draps family had all three: While Pierre Draps Senior created elegant praline chocolates in the privacy of his studio, his wife and his four little soldiers packed and delivered the fruits of their passion to Brussels superstores.
On the death of their parents, Pierre, Joseph, François and Yvonne continued the family’s chocolate tradition and moved the shop to Boulevard Leopold; which was where the first Godiva store opened. More than 500 stores in as many as 80 countries, that’s a lot of arms… and even more chocolate.
In the 50s, a young Belgian entrepreneur couple, riding the wave of the Baby Boom, opened a shop for pregnant women and young children in Rue du Marché aux Herbes. Called “Prémaman”, the small sign quickly attracted hordes of mothers or mothers to be, to the point that it was decided to expand the family: in two years, ten more shops opened.
In July 2012, Prémaman joined the Orchestra Group to become the leader in childcare, maternity and children’s fashion. Currently present in five continents, in 32 countries, with 180 franchise stores and 90 own stores, the small Brussels business has now become a very big family.
Some wield the sword, others the scissors. This is the case of Hadj Zellat aka Olivier Dachkin, now at the head of the largest chain of hairdressers in Belgium. On opening his first salon in Brussels, the ambitious hairdresser was pursuing a very specific goal: an accessible, quality-assured brand.
It seems that this is now “mission accomplished”, as the Brussels hairdresser with the salt and pepper hair has opened his hundredth salon in Belgium, following extremely successful openings in Luxembourg and the United States.
Aunt Simone’s bread is her own Proust madeleine. So when Alain Coumont, son and grand-son of grocers, discovered he wouldn’t find anything like it in any other trade, he decided to put his hand to the dough. For the young chef, the tradition of good fresh bread is a routine worthy of repetition. The first Pain Quot’ came out of the oven in 1990, at 16, rue Dansaert.
Today, Alain’s ovens have multiplied at enormous speed and feed more than 20 countries daily.
In 1999, Nicolas, Frédéric and Arnaud challenged themselves to set up the first fast-food restaurant selling natural products. Two years later, the three friends were planting their first carrot at 12, Chaussée d’Ixelles, like a Trojan horse among its calorie-obsessed competitors.
Fresh sandwiches, proper coffee, environmentally friendly packaging for the same price as the burger/soda/plastic deal of the traditional fast food chains. They didn’t realise it was impossible, so they did it … 70 times. In France, the Netherlands, Italy,… today, the little Belgian carrot can even be found in the Big Apple.
Ever since he was born, Bernard Julémont has been involved in a race against time. So, naturally watchmaking became his profession and motor sport his passion. In 2001, the Brussels-born watchmaker decided to found his own brand, with an evocative name… “Raidillon” is none other than the most famous sequence of turns on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Like the perilous bend, the brand has traced its course, growing from 25 models in 2009 to over sixty today. A single HQ, located in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, which radiates a network of independent distributors with Swiss, Chinese or even Qatari accents… Raidillon now has the right to swagger.
Exki, Le Pain Quotidien, Olivier Dachkin… many chains, all over the world, that have become institutions. They are the result of a risk, a challenge assumed by their creators, who strove to see their accomplishments shine beyond the Belgo-Belgian borders.
And Brussels seems to be the ideal laboratory to attempt such an undertaking. Julien Bacq, Director of Business Development at Atrium Brussels explains: “Brussels has everything you need today to develop endogenous trade; the diversity of its districts and the variety of its customers gives local entrepreneurs very fertile ground on which to test their project prior to export.”
This success is mainly the result of a well thought-out project; you can’t under any circumstances undertake the development of your business on a whim. Stéphane Decoster, communications manager at Brussels Invest and Export stresses: “Export is not a game. The company must be ready to take responsibility for all aspects of its choice. Because if the initiative is ultimately a source of income, it also has a cost, in terms of prospection, visits, time. This requires being organised … and patient. “