I'd guesstimate Lokeren, which lies about 25 miles west of Antwerp,
to have a population of around 15,000. It's in an industrial
park on the outskirts of town where I find the head office/factory
of candy and chocolate maker Trefin. Trains pass by the building's
rear. A sign near the road lets visitors know this is the place.
From the outside the one-story building looks like it was built
in the 1960's and the dated furnishings in the reception area
Near the reception counter there's a bowl full of blue mint candy
for visitors and in one corner of the room stands an antique
industrial-size copper kettle. Hanging on a wall is a framed
picture of a man, though there's no name or dates, I assume he
founded the company. It's mid-July and deserted here as I have
to stick my head through a doorway and shout "hello"
to get someone to come out from the back. I meet with Goeleke
Eckhout from the sales department.
It's a seasonal business as the number of people working here
fluctuates from 70 to 120. The factory is currently closed for
summer vacation. The company was founded in 1930 and I ask who
the gentlemen is in the framed picture but, Eckhout doesn't know.
Employee parking is free and plentiful, smoking isn't allowed
in the workplace and there's a break room but no company cafeteria.
It's 10 minutes to the nearest freeway, a five-minute drive to
Lokeren's city center and an hour's drive to Brussels airport.
Any employee perks such as special prices or discounts on company
products? No, zilch, none. Matter of fact, employees aren't even
allowed to sample the wares at work.
I can't see the office of owner and Managing Director Lestte
Lerno. Why? Because Eckhout says Ms. Lerno isn't here today.
I ride off empty-handed as I'm not offered any goodies.
Company website: www.trefin.com