Update: the store ceased trading in April 2018
Rococo have joined the community of independents on Northgate Street after 5 years on Eastgate street at the front of the Grosvenor Hotel. The new premises has allowed the business to expand and offer a wider range of products including hot drinks( including organic hot chocolate with up to 76% cocoa solids) as well as a unique “chocolate classroom” which will host workshops and tastings. Founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady OBE, Rococo have just 5 stores, with Chester being the only branch outside London. We sat down for a chat with manager Peter Kubica.
“We are a very small company” says Polish born Peter who came to England 7 years ago. “We produce a high quality product from fresh chocolate, produced in a kitchen not in a factory. 5 years ago we opened the first shop outside London , and the product had to travel in special boxes with temperature and humidity controls inside.” In the Grosvenor, Peter says, there was “one table as a decoration and we couldn’t make coffee or tea. We sold chocolates and sold ice cream from Snugburys. They are run by a family as well. The Grosvenor wanted the space as well so it was the perfect time to move.” The new unit was formerly occupied by the Health Hut and then left empty for several years.
“I used to work in the Grosvenor, that was my start.My brother lives here. When I came here I focused on improving my English, my brother stayed with the Polish community.. my partner is British. I am a fan of exploring food, and I wasn’t a fan of going to the Polish shops as I wanted to improve myself and learn new things. 7 years ago I couldn’t speak English at all…
“I am more into retail than hospitality, I love to interact and talk with people. We have 5 staff at the moment, all of our team have a different background and nationality. Dan (assistant manager ) is Welsh..” English, Spanish and American- Korean complete the roster of nationalities at Rococo. “As a team we are so strong”.
Peter is enthusiastic about the business’ new Northgate street home having been attracted by the quality of the independent food businesses on the street. “We saw the Cheese Shop, the bakery, Covino, Joseph Benjamin. Most of our other shops are in this kind of location, surrounded by food. If you are in Chelsea, Belgravia, you have cheese shops etc, so this is similar. ” Once the location was decided , an extensive renovation took place including rebuilding the basement to form the “chocolate classroom”
“You can play with chocolate and learn about it, the flavour.. You can close your eyes and go on a journey around the world!”
Peter says that footfall will improve once the change from the new bus station settles. We opened 2 weeks ago so we aren’t expecting to be super busy straight away. “I’m not a fan of Frodsham street and I don’t like the improvements.” He feels that many will choose to access the town via Northgate street instead of braving the yellow tarmac of Frodsham street.
Of the city’s other chocolate shops Peter says confidently, “they are not competitors, Hotel chocolat , Thorntons are selling boxes, not made in the UK Leonidas are a franchise, not produced here. I am spoiled by Rococo now. This is not just another piece of chocolate, its not a factory, its made in by 5 people. They are passionate about the product, massive respect to these people! We are constantly winning awards, we have gold silver and bronze from the Academy of Chocolate”
“When we opened the store, all of the small independents came in to say hello to us. We didn’t have the same feeling on Eastgate street, here we are like one big happy family. The residential area, people on King Street, all these people coming to say hi to us, its a community. We want to be a destination, people come in just to have a chat, and everyone is welcome to come in and see us!”
Thanks to staff at Rococo and Rachel O Kelly