La petite histoire d’une Grande Dame
The story of DelReY starts before the Second World War. A man named Faustin owned seven chocolate shops and a waffle shop in Antwerp and the surrounding region. His wife, Adèle Raymaekers, was the manager of the Antwerp shop at n° 5 in the Appelmansstraat. But Faustin had one big problem: he pursued women, horses and fast cars with equal passion and with disastrous consequences. His company eventually went bankrupt.
But Adèle, who had seen this coming, had refused to take things lying down. She hired Omer Plaetevoet, the workshop’s chef, and founded “Maison Ray” in 1949.
What’s in a name? Adele Ra(e)ymaekers shuffled the letters of her name a little and came up with something regal, royal even.... ‘DelReY’, or ‘the king’s’..
Creativity makes the difference
Adèle, who had trained as a hat designer, specialised in the decoration of hats. So she applied all her creativity to her packaging, which was a hit!
In 1962 Arnout Marchand joined DelReY. He did not stay with the company for long as he wished to hone his chocolate making skills. He soon left to Switzerland where he dedicated his time to mastering the art of taste and chocolate. But all that time he dreamed of DelReY. In 1963 he returned to Belgium, making chocolates in his own workshop, which he sold to shops in Ostend.
When he heard a rumour that DelReY was for sale, he did not hesitate one second. On January, 1st 1965 he took over the business and its team of 8 employees, together with his wife, Rita Carette. In 1974 they acquired the buildings at n° 2 Vestingstraat and n° 5 Appelmansstraat, which they had been renting up until then. Two months later they closed for three months for a radical renovation.
Sharing a dream
In 1975 and 1976 Bernard Proot worked at DelReY during the winter months. He spent the summer months or ‘the season’ working at the Belgian coast. But he wanted to make a career for himself. His work placements at 'Le Notre' in Paris and 'Wittamer' in Brussels unleashed his passion for chocolate.
In 1977 Anne Seutin enquired about a student job during the Christmas holidays. She returned to the shop every holiday from then on. Bernard and Anne fell in love and were so passionate about the chocolate-making trade that they dreamed of their own store... or maybe one day DelReY?
In 1981 and 1982 the Marchands travelled to Port-Grimaud in the south of France during the summer months, where they ran ‘DelReY, Salon de Thés, Glaces et Gaufres’. During the summertime they left the Antwerp shop in the capable hands of Bernard Proot. It was an excellent experience for him to understand the true meaning of managing a business.
The great leap
DelReY passed into the hands of Bernard Proot and Anne Seutin on July 1st, 1983. Bernard, who had trained as a patissier, like most people from West Flanders immediately felt at home in Antwerp.
Until 1983 DelReY mainly specialised in chocolates and biscuits. The workforce had grown from 8 to 12 employees in the meantime. From 1983 they introduced a range of patisserie, albeit a limited one because of the lack of space. In 1989 the shop was refurbished creating more space for DelReY’s patisserie. A new logo and packaging were also introduced.
Raising the bar as high as possible
In 1993 the store at n° 9 Appelmansstraat was refurbished and that same year the DelReY tasting salon opened its doors. Now customers could pick and choose their favourite chocolates and pastries and also eat them on the premises.
And as is customary at DelReY, the bar was raised, very high even. All the warm drinks are served on a tray decorated with sweets. Coffee, DelReY tea or hot chocolate are paired with biscuits and pralines, ice-cream and whipped cream. A concept that many of DelReY’s fans and competitors would copy over time. A real success. Originally the owners chose only to serve sweets but after a few months, and at the request of the customers, they added a few savoury dishes to the menu. A chef was hired.
One of the best worldwide
In 1993 DelReY became a member of Relais Desserts, an organisation of the 100 best patissiers worldwide. They meet several times a year to exchange new ideas and product techniques.
In 1995 DelReY bought the building between the store and the tasting salon. The store and the workshops were renovated and the space doubled. Now they could finally serve the wide range of patisserie and ice-cream that customers were clamouring for. That same year Gunther Van Essche joined DelRey as the new chef in the workshop.
In January 1995 Gunther was one of the members of the Belgian team (Gunther Van Essche, Rik Debaere en Pierre Marcolini coached by Marc Debailleul) that won the prestigious “Coupe du monde de la patisserie”. Winning this competition is one of the greatest honours for a patissier...
The land of the Rising Sun
In 2004 the first DelReY store in Japan opened its doors in Ginza District in Tokyo, followed by another in 2005 in Omotesando and a third in 2009 in Fukuoka. HRH Crown Prince Philip even visited the store in Ginza during his trade mission to Japan!
In 2006 the house style was completely restyled. The packaging was revamped to be up to date with the times.
In 2007 DelReY won the ‘Antwerp Springbok’ award for the most creative growth company in the province.
In the meantime DelReY continues to evolve: the team continuously reveals its creative streak in its praline collections working with such imaginative themes as the Diamond Collection, the Antwerp Fashion Collection and the Secret Garden Collection.
A whole new range of chocolates was introduced and the existing range was resized to a more bite-size dimension. Macarons de Paris were added and were an immediate hit.
And which couple doesn’t dream of an American wedding cake for their wedding reception?
DelReY travelled to the United States to learn more about this tradition. The combination of American know-how and the fabulous DelReY quality offers the best of both worlds. Is it a success? Not a week goes by without another order for a large wedding cake.
2012 marks the next milestone in DelReY’s history: The store and the tasting salon will be completely renovated, a passage will be added from the store to the tasting salon and the logo and the packaging will be restyled.
Another ‘chocolate moment’ to look forward to.