Valentino Chocolatier (De Leener bvba)

Head five miles due west of Brussels and you'll come to Schepdaal, a tiny village surrounded by farmland. The main and only road through Schepdaal takes you past Chocolatier Valentino.

The two-story building looks more like a roadside furniture store or former food market than a place where high-end chocolate truffles are made. The name "Valentino" is stamped atop the front of the structure. Next to the office entry is a store who's storefront window display is a combination chocolate pralines and baby furnishings. Is this their flagship store? I go inside for a look/see. Hmm, individual chocolates for sale as well as boxed chocolates mixed with baby furnishings.

I end up meeting with Rob Roelandts, the twenty-something year-old son of founder Willy Roelandts. The company was founded in 1978 and moved here in1995. Why? They outgrew previous places and this 25,000 square foot former bus painting factory is plenty big.

Rob doesn't have a business card so, what does he do here? He's pretty much in charge of sales and marketing or whatever else needs to be done. Eighteen people work here, parking is plentiful and, you're on your own as far as lunch since there's no company cafeteria. It's 20 minutes to Brussels airport, two miles to the nearest freeway and there's covered parking for those who ride bicycles to work. Any unusual employee perks? Chocolates at cost.

Don't have to go far to see the office of Managing Director Willy Roelandts. Why? I was sitting in his chair. He uses an Apple computer, has two plants (real) and three Valentino advertising posters hang on the wall. What's the view from his ground floor office? The parking lot and farmland in the distance. How did the Valentino name come to be? Rob says his mother came up with the name–as it sounds romantic. Valentino chocolates can be purchased at 80 outlets in Belgium and abroad.

So, what do Valentino chocolates taste like? Well, Rob's marketing expertise needs working on as samples aren't offered and I'm given zilch goodies upon leaving.

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