It only takes one step into Andre’s Confiserie Suisse to realize that multiple generations of the Bollier family are running about the cafe and sweet shop – creating fine chocolates, serving tables and baking pastries. This is all part of the family atmosphere that the Bollier family has created at their store, Andre’s chocolates.
The Bolliers hailed from the sweets kingdom of Switzerland. According to the head of the family Elsbeth, chocolate and pastry shops are common in Switzerland –but extraordinarily expensive to open. Andre Bollier and Elsbeth Bollier crossed the Atlantic when they saw the opportunity and need for a chocolate store in Kansas City that allowed them to make their dream happen. By 1967, Andre’s Chocolates was providing Kansas City with authentic Swiss pastries.
Ever since then a Bollier has been in the Andre’s kitchen at 3 a.m. preparing products such as their famous chocolate covered almonds for a day of business. The current 3 a.m. baker is President of Operations and 1994 East Graduate Rene Bollier. Before him was his father, current CEO Marcel Bollier.
The business has been passed down through the family for three generations so that a Bollier can continue to provide Kansas City with pastries. Rene started his Andre’s career young like his father Marcel doing small tasks such as sweeping the streets in front of Andre’s.
“A large majority of the skills I have learned came from working with my father and mother at Andre’s since I was 5 years old,” Rene said. “I worked weekends and holidays through grade school and high school.”
The same desire to maintain a successful business has continued in the Bolliers. Since the founding of Andre’s the family added chocolate production, a bakery and most recently a combination tearoom and cafe in 2014. The cafe hails from the families swiss roots and is based on Switzerland architecture.
“We wanted to attract a younger demographic as well as opening up the front retail space to Main Street,” Rene said.
Additionally affiliated with Switzerland is the authentic Swiss chocolate making equipment that may as well be members of the family. According to Rene they are necessary to transform the nearly 150 pounds of chocolate into the fine authentic swiss sweets that are displayed to customers.These machines are the source of the rich chocolate aroma that drifts through Andre’s.
Rene took command of the operation after years of training overseas in Switzerland. After attending the University of Kansas to obtain a degree in business, Rene apprenticed with different pastry chefs around the country. He followed his father’s footsteps and went to Switzerland where, according to Rene, is the place to go if you want to master the art of pastries and chocolate.
“Seeing the process of turning cocoa beans into rich, smooth chocolate was amazing even at a young age,” Rene said.
For the members of the family, the business has never been forced upon them. It has always been the choice of the individual whether or not they want to continue the Andre’s tradition. Although according to Marcel he was very proud when Rene made the decision to continue the tradition.
“I thought it was great to have Rene come in the business, because it is wonderful to continue it on,” Marcel said. “The only disadvantage is we would have sold the business and we would have been rich.”
Besides getting the bills paid for the family, Andre’s brings them together every day. However, according to Elsbeth, like most normal families having everyone together for extended times can be difficult especially when you are running a business.
“We have an agreement that when we are together, there will be no fighting, [but] sometimes we wish to tear the neck of the next one,” Elsbeth said. “We are always peaceful.”
The family always puts their difference aside to achieve the number one goal of producing high quality products.
Currently, Renes trio of daughters are the next possible pastry chefs. Rene hopes that he and the family can share their love for pastry making with, but following his family’s tradition he will let them make the decision
For now the business is in good hands with Rene, chocolate covered almonds are in plentiful supply and there are no worries from the family for the near future. There only focus is enjoying their passion with the people they love dearly.
“I plan to continue running Andre’s for as long as I can,” Rene said. “If my children want to come and take over when they get older that would be great, but everyone has to follow their own passion.”