At the helm of the oldest chocolate factory in Paris, the Dolfi brothers and sisters have built an empire dedicated to indulgence.
35, rue du Faubourg-Montmartre houses the oldest chocolate factory in Paris. A pistachio-colored shopfront that reads, “To the Mother of the Family, since 1761.” It’s packed a few days before Easter. People come from far and wide to buy a chicken or the famous “scrambled eggs” in homemade chocolate. On this day, the boutique welcomes a very special client, Serge Neveu, the former owner. His eyes sparkle as he watches Steve, Sophie, Jonathan and Jane scurry around.
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All are in their forties and siblings. They are the children of Étienne Dolfi, the nephews’ former chocolate supplier, who bought the business in 2000. 22 years later, the four children are at the top. “I didn’t know anything about chocolate,” says Steve, the eldest, artistic director. We were trained by the Neveu family for a year. We quickly felt the weight of the legacy. His sister Sophie, who is in charge of staff, came up with the idea of bright orange, which would become the flagship color of the house. Jonathan, his brother, is Finance Director. Jane, the other sister, takes care of the big accounts.
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“Today, explains Jonathan, we have fifteen stores in Paris, 80 employees and 60 people in production. We offer 1,200 product references.” Over the years, the Dolfis have acquired pastry shops and regional institutions throughout France. This is how the Buissière chocolate factory, specialist in Paladin, was born in Limoges in 2000. Also saved, Les Palets d’or in Moulins, the caramel of Au Négus in Nevers and the famous institution of the Basque Country Henriet. “We want these houses to keep their name, their traditions and their style. Even if it is time-consuming to manage several brands at the same time…” explains Sophie Dolfi. The siblings describe themselves as “defenders of sweet heritage.”
At Easter, the shops turn into a realm of gluttony and the family organizes itself: “Everyone packs, packs, makes deliveries,” explains Sophie. “Marathon at Christmas, sprint at Easter! adds Steve, who is destined for scooter deliveries. Jonathan runs the cash register. Sophie and Jane greet and pack the packages at the reservation, where the boxes are so stacked that it is difficult to find your way. 15% of annual sales are made in five days. The quotas are increasing: more than 30,000 casts made. The cocoa bean is precious, the Dolfis work with local cooperatives in Haiti, Madagascar and Peru. In 2018, the brothers and sisters bought the Stohrer pastry shop, a Parisian institution since 1730. A new challenge where they each gained 4 kilos in a year! “At home we like to declare love with food,” laughs Steve Dolfi.