Best of Belgium on High Street; IN THE COMPANY OF... OLIVIER DOCHEZ OF TWO GUYS FROM BRUSSELS.
WHEN corporate high-flyer Olivier Dochez was diagnosed with a rare disease affecting his lungs he was forced to leave air polluted Brussels.
The Belgian who had worked in customer services for American Express chose the fresh air of North Wales for his health but not with the intention of a life of recuperation and benefits.
Looking for a new challenge with his partner, Jean Christophe Vlasselaer, they opened up Two Guys from Brussels in Bangor - selling the best produce from Belgium and quality local food and drink.
Targeting locals the store has thrived since opening a year ago with plans to expand with a first floor restaurant and stores in Chester and Liverpool in the future.
The 42-year-old said: "I came here for my health, I have sarcoidosis, which is very rare auto-immune disease.
"There was too much air pollution in Belgium so I had to leave for an area with little air pollution.
"I was diagnosed six years ago and came to North Wales 18 months ago.
We came here with the idea to just see what happ e n s although I was never going to sit around and live on benefits.
"My partner always wanted to open a small Belgium shop, it turned out bigger than we expected.
"We wanted to bring the best of Belgium and combine it with the best produce from North Wales."
He added: "The local community was mainly supportive.
"I think a few people saw this as a very upper class shop, but that changed quickly and people saw we were here for local people and doing things for the local community.
"We aim at locals, we don't promote towards students, although obviously they are very welcome."
The focus of the store is to bring in produce that would be hard to source anywhere else in the area, from the chocolates to the sweets and beers.
Olivier said: "People are always looking to try new things so it means we need to keep changing.
"We are always changing our beers because when we bring something new it sells out.
"We want to offer something people can't get in other places.
"This is expensive though so we don't make much of a margin on the beer with so much competition from off-licences and supermarkets.
"Our chocolate is imported from Belgium as it tends to be less sweet than the UK chocolate."
The business attracts great loyalty from its customers but Olivier believes it is suffering from poor footfall in Bangor.
He said: "Those who find us come back but there is not as much passing trade as we would like.
"I think the high street is struggling at the moment."
He has been involved with the new Business Improvement District to help promote the city but said he was viewed as being "too critical".
He said: "On the continent people are more open to criticism. It didn't go down well with some people.
"I am still a little bit involved but as it stands now with the board I don't see it going in the right direction.
"We need more interest from the independent shops to make this work.
"People are also scared of doing something new. We need to be more original, but you often get the response 'but we have always done it that way', but this is not working so we need to change.
"I think too often the focus is on students but we have to remember about the local people and the hundreds of thousands of extra people that come here on holiday."
After the usual challenges of a first year in business they now hope to expand.
He said: "The next step is to have a kitchen upstairs with a cafe during the day and a French/ Belgium/Welsh restaurant in the evening, some Welsh and Belgium stews are very similar.
| Are you a company owner, manager director in North Would you like little time in the Business Post? Twitter: DPBUSINESSWALEs "It would create more jobs, we could have around 15-20 staff, compared to the five we have now.
"There is demand for more restaurants in Bangor, and we hope to have a garden terrace as well for outside.
"We hope to obtain planning permission for the plans.
"We want to open a beer cocktail bar as well, also pairing beer with chocolate."
He added: "This is very different to my previous career.
"It is different working so closely with staff, they are all young and keen, we have a great team now."
Despite the disease causing him pain Olivier refuses to let it hold him back.
or Wales? to spend a company of Contact us via He said: "Every breathe I take is painful so I am on pain killers to control it.
"I could get a transplant but the success rate is so low so I have refused it twice, because I think 'save someone else, who has more chance than me.'.
"I hope to have five to ten years in some comfort but after that I don't know.
"But we want to make this work and we have plans to expand in Chester and Liverpool."
THE CV FULL NAME Oliver Dochez, 42, Jean Christopher Vlasselaer, 40 CAREER Worked at American Express in a senior customer services role before leaving Belgium to move to Wales and starting up the shop and cafe.
you a company owner, manager or director in North Wales? Would you like to spend a little time in the company of Business Post? Contact us via Twitter: DPBUSINESSWALEs
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)|
|Date:||Sep 21, 2016|
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