Tell us about yourself and your business! What do you do or sell?
We are a small-batch maker of some of the most exquisite Belgian-style chocolates in America. Bob is a Master Chocolatier, trained in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1982-83, by Master Chocolatier Rene Goossens in a true (unpaid) apprenticeship where labor was exchanged for knowledge. My brother, Fred, joined the business 12 years later. After 37 years in business, we still use the classic original recipes that made Belgium famous for it's Chocolates, as well as many of our own creations following the same guidelines, principles, philosophies and methodologies that we were taught. Never are preservatives, stabilizers or tropical fats used - only all-natural products. We exclusively use Callebaut Chocolate which is Fair Trade Certified and an active member in the Rainforest Alliance, which supports sustainable cocoa farming and farmer education.
Belgian Chocolatier Piron
509-A Main St
Evanston, IL 60202
Why did you start this business? If you were a superhero, what would your origin story be?
I had an artistic flair and a strong interest in the foods of my family's homeland, Belgium. In addition, I wanted to own my own business and wasn't afraid to work hard to make it happen. Most people wouldn't work over a year 6-7 days a week, 13 hour days, to learn a craft; I did. I saw the future in everything I learned. I also wanted to do my part in promoting a beautiful small country that most people had never explored.
What's the story behind the name of your business?
My brother and I are first generation Belgian-American, that explains the origin. We are Chocolatiers, that explains the what. And Piron is our family name.
Did you choose the Main-Dempster Mile? Or did it choose you? Tell us the story of selecting your location.
We have been here long before Main Dempster Mile ever existed. In fact, it was the Main Street Merchants Association in 1986 when we moved here from Northbrook. As an organization, we got together on a Sunday before Christmas and decorated the lights in the trees up and down Main Street and Chicago Avenue by ourselves. It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun getting to know our fellow business people. It brought a real sense of neighborhood to us all.
What sets your business apart from others that sell the same products?
Everything is made fresh in our on-site kitchen, without any preservatives or stabilizers, using locally sourced cream and butter and only all natural ingredients. The quality of our chocolates are at least equal to those of the finest chocolate houses in the world. We are an internationally-recognized, Michelin Guide and SLOW Food International listed, humble neighborhood chocolate shop right here on Main Street. Our chocolates are regularly flown all over the world, we have even had customers fly into O'Hare, cab into Evanston to choose their chocolates, and fly back out the same day, just to get their chocolate fix from us. Our clientele includes Hollywood celebrities, politicians, foreign dignitaries, and our favorite neighbors who stop by daily!
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business?
Make sure it's your passion. Make sure you are sufficiently funded. Have a good business plan. Be prepared to work harder and longer than you ever have in your entire life.