Founded in 1986 by husband and wife team Philip and Natalie, Amelie Chocolat soon became a labour of love. The original shop, which traded under the parent company name Natalie Belgian Chocolates, was a beautiful little Dickensian shop tucked away in a quiet pedestrian avenue in Holborn, opposite Bloomsbury Square. Part of the Duke of Bedford’s Estate, this area of Holborn was home to the Bloomsbury literary set. For much of the 20th century, Bloomsbury served as a meeting place for writers and intellectuals. Leading luminaries were Virginia Woolf and EM Forster. The publishing houses that are still trading in the area to this day provide a very real link to its bygone literary fame.
Number 12 Sicilian Avenue had been an old secondhand stamp shop since the 1940’s and when Philip and Natalie took it over, the Avenue had a charming bohemian atmosphere and seemed like a perfect setting for a sophisticated chocolate shop.
At first they struggled to create their own unique identity, learning through trial and error. Sourcing chocolates from importers and wholesalers it was difficult to stand out and offer something that really captured the beauty of Continental chocolates. It was then that they hit on the idea of acquiring, through the Belgian Chamber of Commerce, a copy of the Yellow Pages for Belgium. Working their way through the section on chocolatiers, they phoned every company listed to chat to the owners, trying to find a rapport and identify a small growing chocolatier that could prove to be a suitable supplier.
Eventually Philip phoned Chocolaterie Ickx, a small factory located in a rural area outside Antwerp. At the time, the factory made chocolates only for little patisseries in Belgium and Holland. The owner was clearly passionate about his chocolates and Philip asked if he could pay them a visit with a view to importing their chocolates to be retailed in London. This was the start of a relationship that would see both businesses grow tenfold in the following years.
By the third year the little shop in Sicilian Avenue would just about explode at the seams in the leadup to Christmas and Easter! Queues would form down the Avenue as customers waited to buy beautifully packaged chocolates for Christmas, and stunning hand assembled Easter eggs for Easter. Two more shops followed within four years and eventually the chocolates came to the attention of the UK’s leading retailers. By year five Natalie Chocolates were available in over 200 outlets throughout the UK.
Sadly the shop in Sicilian Avenue no long exists, however in 2004, almost twenty years after the original shop opened its doors, Philip and Natalie decided to offer their chocolates online. By now they were importing chocolates from across Europe and their idea was to make the very best chocolates from each of their suppliers, exclusively available to be sent by post throughout the UK. So now, customers anywhere in the world, from as far afield as Australia, could go online and send a beautifully packaged gift box of chocolates with a personalised message to their friends and family no matter where they lived. The most remote delivery address prize, so far, goes to a lighthouse off the Orkney Islands!
To create a unique identity for this very exclusive range of chocolates they created a separate brand, Amelie Chocolat, which would only be available to purchase direct either online or by mail order ( so cannot be found anywhere else ) With over 40,000 customers to date, Amelie has gone from strength to strength and won acclaim for the quality of its mouthwatering chocolates and beautiful presentation.
Selling online at first seemed likely to be an anonymous experience, but in fact this new venture allowed Philip and Natalie to enjoy the experience and benefit from the feedback of discerning chocolate lovers across the globe from as far afield as Japan and the Arctic Circle.