Leonidas Chester on Bridge Street is the only branch of the Belgian chocolate makers outside of London. The company have over 1000 stores worldwide. Our blogger Rachel O Kelly spoke to the manager Triin.
“We opened last December so its been nearly a year now. It’s been going really well , we were busy over the summer. Over the summer tourists were our main customer base
“This company is more than 100 years old (founded 1913) , its a Belgian company but the founder of the company is Greek . ” The company takes its name from the Greek/ Spartan hero Leonidas (memorably depicted in the film 300 by Gerard Butler). “This company still belongs to the same family, its very famous in Belgium, Netherlands, France, anyone from there will know Leonidas!”
“What’s special about Leonidas chocolates is that they are 100% fresh and 100% pure. There’s no additives, no soya, no palm oil is used. ” The shop also serves hot and cold drinks, pancakes and waffles. In the summer they have an outdoor seating area which adds to the continental cafe culture vibe of the street which is increasingly dominated by restaurants “I think we tend to get busier when events are on, but generally it is quieter than the main streets” says Triin.
There are a few Leonidas branches in London, and apart from that there is only a counter in Edinburgh not a proper shop. Of rival chocolate firms including Hotel Chocolat and Rococco , Triin says “we are the only Belgian chocolate shop in Chester” We are the only one doing proper Belgian chocolates.”
In the light of recent changes to the iconic Toblerone bar we asked how the chocolate industry had been affected by Brexit…”Well it hasn’t.. but our suppliers have put the prices up because of it” she says diplomatically.
The 2 weeks before Christmas are the busiest period for the chocolate trade . Leonidas’ best sellers are bags of assorted chocolates, popular with last minute present buyers. A popular deal over the summer has been a coffee with 2 chocolates for 3 pounds. Leonidas serve Illy coffee which is not commonly served in Chester.
Triin, who is Estonian says her background is in catering and supervising. “This is my first retail job and I do like working with the chocolates, its so nice. ”
“I’ve been here 9 years, I am very settled now. Its small but its big enough, you don’t get the feeling of living in a small village but its a nice size. ” There is not a big Estonian community in Chester she says but her mum and sister live here. “Estonia is such a small country, I think overall there are 10,000 Estonians here, mainly in London …”
Leonidas are open 9.30 -5.30 mon – sat and 11 til 430 on Sundays