Behind the Scenes at Maison Dandoy
Behind the Scenes at Maison Dandoy
Today, in our new episode of "Behind the Scenes at Maison Dandoy," we leave the workshop and head to the boutiques. Maria, Esther, and Pili, our models for the day, strike poses in front of the camera with humor and mischief. Once the photo shoot is over, Diego, our writer, returns to the store to discuss their journey with Dandoy. Discover the portraits of three women who make service rhyme with delight.
Store Manager at Brugmann
16 years at Maison Dandoy
Favorite biscuit : classic speculoos
With tousled hair and pillow marks, I meet Maria in the early morning. While I order a coffee to wake up and shake off my grogginess, Maria is already full of energy, and her good mood is so contagious that I start the interview without even touching my precious morning remedy.
The first thing that comes to mind when I see her is to ask her where she gets all this energy. She responds promptly, "The customers! Well, I shouldn't even call them that; most of them are friends." The manager of the Brugmann store for over 16 years now, Maria makes it a point to maintain a friendly relationship with the gourmets who come to visit. She knows all their stories, those of their children, and sometimes even those of their grandchildren. For her, there's nothing more important than family (there's even a photo of her family in the store), and her "friends" are her family.
Always ready with a joke, the most important thing for Maria is that her "friends" have a pleasant time every time they step into the store. And that's exactly what happens! In the Brugmann neighborhood, everyone knows her, and rumor has it that some people come just to see her behind those big round glasses.
"One Sunday, a customer drove past the store just to see if it was me behind the counter. Unfortunately for him, it was a busy day, and he couldn't see if I was there. He stopped to ask a lady leaving the store if the 'lady-with-the-big-glasses' was working today. I was on my day off, and guess what, he turned his car around!"
Maria is a bit like the scent of warm cookies that welcomes you as soon as you enter the store. In an instant, she makes you smile and, most importantly, makes you want to come back.
As you can imagine, she can't sit still. Aimless days are not for her! "There's always something to do in the store, and even if there isn't, I always find something to keep me occupied. And if all else fails, I have my yoga mat in the stockroom." Her favorite time of year? The holiday season, of course! "There's so much to do that we don't have time to get bored, and I love it!"
Although I could have spent the whole day with her, it's time for me to wrap up this interview. Maria has so many stories that it would take at least a week to hear them all. And honestly, I wouldn't mind that.
Without hesitation, after thanking me with a big smile, she hops on her bike to go to work. Because in addition to being an amazing store manager, Maria is also an environmental advocate in her everyday life. And that's something we love at Dandoy!
Assistant Store Manager at Stéphanie
5 years at Maison Dandoy
Favorite biscuit : sea salt biscuit
Esther took her first steps at Maison Dandoy with Maria. That was 5 years ago, and since then, she has come a long way. Now an Assistant Store Manager at Stéphanie, she has every intention of climbing the ranks to lead Maison Dandoy (although the Store Manager position suits her just fine)! Yes, despite her young age, Esther is not afraid to take on responsibilities. As Pili puts it, "She was barely hired, and she was already training the new recruits. Right from the start, we saw her potential, and we quickly realized she would be with us for a long time."
It's a fact that Esther has character and ambition, and she doesn't hide it! Trained by the best (Maria & Pili), she knows every nook and cranny of Maison Dandoy. "This store is my second home; I have my little routines, and I know everyone." Like Maria, what she loves most about her job is the interaction with customers. She loves to chat and delight all the gourmets who come "to her."
Her special talent? Esther has an excellent memory and remembers everyone. If you've ever been to the Stéphanie store, she'll remember you, and maybe even your favorite treats. Now, that's quality service! Speaking of which, when I ask her about her favorite cookie, she doesn't hesitate for a moment and says, "Without a doubt, the sea salt biscuit. Have you tried it? Wait, I'll get you one. You can't leave without knowing what it's like!" And there you go, Esther convinced me, and now that biscuit is one of my favorites, always in my little takeaway bag.
Esther's greatest quality is her patience (at least with customers). "Even though most of my customers are lovely people, sometimes you have to keep your cool. Not everyone is always in a good mood... But in those cases, I put on my mask and smile. I enjoy playing a role with them, and in the end, it's quite funny." I don't know about you, but I'd love to see her show!
11 years at Maison Dandoy
Favorite biscuit : Earl Grey tea biscuit
Now it's Pili's turn to tell me about her remarkable journey at Dandoy (and what a journey it is!). As we settle comfortably in the back room of the Stéphanie’s boutique, exchanging some pleasant small talk, I realize that I feel like I already know her. Upon a little reflection, I understand that it's because I've heard her name more than once. Yes, Pili is what one might call a "pillar" (Pili > pillar, get it?) of Maison Dandoy. But it doesn't stop there. Pili has the gift of putting you at ease from the first meeting; her smile and warmth have that special something that makes you want to get to know her even better. And it's a good thing because I have plenty of questions for her!
So, let's start at the beginning! When I ask Pili to tell me about her first day at Dandoy, she chuckles and says, "There are days you remember for the rest of your life, and my first day is one of them. Did you know I lost a tooth that day?" It was 11 years ago, and Pili was a salesperson at the Saint-Job store, yearning to taste a Bernardin biscuit. Her curiosity and love for sweets got the best of her, and with the first bite... you can guess the rest.
Initially, nothing indicated that she would end up working in sales. While on a career break following the birth of her triplets, Pili started feeling bored and in need of something new. One day, as she was picking up her children from school, Christine Rombouts-Dandoy, who happens to be a friend, casually asked her to help out during the holiday season. A stroke of luck that worked out wonderfully, as Pili has since become the manager of all Dandoy boutiques. But don't ever mention hierarchy to her; she despises it!
What she loves most about her job? The strong sense of family at Dandoy. Because, yes, Pili is a full-time mom too! "My teams are like my children. I love to pamper them, and above all, I'm always there for them. I do everything to make each one feel their best, and even if it's sometimes a painstaking effort, nothing beats their well-being." And believe me, she means it. Throughout the interview, her phone rang several times, and each time, she answered with gentleness and empathy to address various family requests. "Thanks to them, no two days are the same. For someone who hates getting bored, it's ideal!"
Pili enjoys human interaction so much (and it's evident), that I can't help but ask her if she misses being "on the front lines." To that, she tells me that, indeed, she misses the smiles and kindness of the customers, but now, she enjoys focusing more on her teams and young individuals who want to invest their time at Dandoy. "As I always say, the youth is Dandoy's future. There's nothing that makes me happier than seeing them thrive and grow" (remember, she's the one who trained Esther when she was starting out).
Just like Maria, the "Mama Dandoy," Pili has tons of fond memories and anecdotes to share, but if there's one that truly left a mark, it's the opening of the Stéphanie’s boutique where she worked as the manager. As she puts it, it's her second home. "More than just an opening, this event marked a significant turning point in the history of Maison Dandoy. It was a time when everything changed, and the new generation took the reins. I'm so proud to have contributed my part."
The interview concludes, and Pili has a million things to do today, but she still insists on telling me about Mr. Bernard, for whom she has tremendous admiration. If she's where she is today, it's all thanks to him. "His management philosophy is truly unique and incredibly humane. He's the one who taught me everything, and I can never thank him enough!"