Four years have passed since André’s Confiserie Suisse ended its half-century run in Cherry Creek, when chef/proprietor Bruno Gegenschatz decided to retire. The elegant Swiss pastry shop and cafe isn't making a comeback, but the company's founding family is bringing the brand name back to Denver with a line of chocolates that are now available at all Front Range Whole Foods Markets.
René Bollier, grandson of André Bollier, who founded Andre's in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1955, explains that his family's company has been making chocolates since the very beginning. "My grandparents came to Kansas City from Switzerland in 1955 and opened a traditional European pastry and chocolate shop," he notes. "Two years later they opened the cafe to expose more people to something that was very new in the Midwest."
From there, the Bollier family licensed the name and products to trusted pastry chefs trained in the European classics. René Bollier points out that as the first generation of licensees began retiring, finding skilled chefs with the right background was difficult, and it was preferable to let the franchises close than to let the standard of excellence slip. The Cherry Creek Andre's was the last in the country outside Kansas City.
But the original André's in Kansas City is still going strong (along with a second cafe in the city), and loyal customers still purchase chocolates that get shipped all over the country. But Bollier says Denver has always been in the family's mind, and a partnership with Whole Foods seemed like the perfect way to make it easier for Denver residents to purchase Andre's chocolates. Whole Foods is now stocking chocolate-covered almonds, chocolate pine cones filled with chocolate almonds, holiday batons (chocolate sticks in a variety of flavors), and chocolate-coated candied orange peel.
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"We roast our almonds very dark for flavor and crunch," Bollier explains. "And the candied orange peel is made from oranges squeezed for fresh juice every day at our cafes."
The core business has always remained in the Bollier family. When André passed away in 1985, René's parents, Marcel and Connie Bollier, took over. His aunt, Brigitte Gravino, still runs one of the Kansas City cafes, and his wife, Nancy, is in charge of wholesale and marketing operations, so she was instrumental in securing the Whole Foods deal. René grew up helping his dad out, and then moved to Switzerland for three years to train as a pastry chef before eventually becoming president of the company in 2009.
The Cherry Creek neighborhood has grown so rapidly in recent years that many new neighbors probably don't know that the now-vacant brick building at 370 Garfield Street was once a favorite of older residents. While the old restaurant and bakery is likely to be leveled to make way for more sleek condos or apartments, at least André's chocolates can be found on shelves at the Cherry Creek Whole Foods as a tasty reminder of the neighborhood's history.