Paris Mosaic: meet Julie Rougier of La Petite Chocolatière
There is so much more to Paris than its famous monuments. In fact, one of the things we at MyFrenchLife™ love most about the City of Light are the beautiful artisan businesses that line the city’s streets.
Enchanted by their beautiful displays and inspired by their talent and dedication, we’ve brought together the Paris Mosaic series, where we introduce you to the faces behind these Parisian gems.
La Petite ChocolatièreAddress: 45 rue des Martyrs, Paris 75009
Opening hours: Tue-Sat:10.30am–7.30pm; Sun:10.30am–1.30pm
Rue des Martyrs, running from the bottom of la Butte into the heart of Montmartre, is lined with charming small businesses – artisanal shops, bakeries and cafes. It’s a street that is so picture perfect, it momentarily takes your breath away. Walking along under the shaded leafy green trees and within view of the Sacré Coeur, you immediately feel as if you’re within the beating heart of Paris.
The street is beloved by visitors and locals alike, including Julie Rougier, who chose to open her chocolate boutique here in the 9th arrondissement eight years ago. Originally established in 1994 by her parents, Patricia and Loïc Rougier, the La Petite Chocolatière brand includes three boutiques – two in Paris and one in Asnières, just outside Paris.
Julie, unflaggingly friendly and effortlessly chic, began working with her family’s chocolate brand in an effort to reinvigorate it for a younger audience.
Her eye for marketing is obvious the moment you catch sight of the boutique in the 9th arrondissement: the storefront is bright blue, with tasteful pops of colour in the window, setting it apart from the more traditional magasins next door. For Julie, it’s all about high quality chocolate and reasonable prices.
Even in the already vibrant, welcoming atmosphere of rue des Martyrs, La Petite Chocolatière stands out. Be sure to drop by for their signature praliné and friendly conversation the next time you’re in town.
Julie we’re curious about how your boutique got started. Could you explain to us how it all began?
This boutique is eight years old — La Petite Chocolatière. But my parents have made chocolate for 20 years, and 20 years ago they created the brand, opening their own boutique with partners. Now there are 12 boutiques in Paris, and one in Bordeaux.
And me, I joined the venture with my parents eight years ago, because I work in marketing and merchandising. It was what I wanted to do with my life, and I wanted to work with chocolate as well. So I opened this boutique and I had the idea to develop the brand with them, to target younger, more active clients.
And now, the products are better: very good, high quality chocolate and at reasonable prices. It’s a little less expensive. And we make our chocolate in France, our entire line, and we distribute in Paris.
Were you trained in chocolate making techniques?
Yes, I did an internship! But I focus on the commercialisation, the distribution, and the brand. But the chocolatiers taught me the rudiments, even though I don’t make the chocolate now. But I know the basics; I did an internship because it does interest me. It’s important.
Of course! And what are your most popular products?
Ah, the most popular. It’s all the chocolates we call ‘bon bons’, the little ones that we put in the boxes. They’re really the heart of our business. We have over 40 types of chocolates, and we specialise in the pralines — they’re why people come to us. It’s really this chocolate here.
And the idea behind La Petite Chocolatière was also to sell other selected products, artisanal products, of extremely high quality. And we’re original, because they’re not found everywhere, what we’re distributing in this boutique.
We have chocolate covered almonds, jams, and specialties from the south of France; original things like les pates de fruits with chocolate. So we have other products that we don’t make ourselves, to support other artisans.
And what are your favourite products?
Me, I adore the millefeuille, with crunchy pralines. It has very, very thin layers, and I love it. I also love les orangettes, orange pieces covered in chocolate. And I like the classics, like mendiants. Those are chocolate cookies that are covered with dried fruit. I prefer everything simple, because the chocolate is good, the dried fruit is good — it’s high quality.
Where is your chocolate made?
It’s made in Ardenne, in the east of France.
And you like this neighbourhood (the 9th arrondissement)?
Ah, yes! I’m lucky. When I opened my boutique here eight years ago, when I was researching neighbourhoods, I actually knew very quickly that I wanted to be in the 9th arrondissement. And in particular rue des Martyrs, because I love this street—I love the dynamism. It’s one of the rare streets in Paris that’s really exclusively, concerned with food as commerce. So that’s one specific part of the street, the atmosphere—a little bit of a village market. Even if, effectively, the street is becoming more and more hipster and there are a lot of name brands showing up. It’s an evolution of society.
I actually knew very quickly that I wanted to be in the 9th arrondissement. And in particular rue des Martyrs, because I love this street—I love the dynamism.
Despite everything—its popularity, the hipsters, the people who come down from Pigalle and Montmartre—it’s a unique atmosphere. For me, rue des Martyrs is unique.
Do you have regular customers who visit the shop?
Yes, I have customers who come every week. I have a very nice customer named Bernard who comes at least once a week, if not twice. And he asks for this chocolate here, and a chocolate bar. So yes, I have regular customers. I know the families, I know the children. After a while you establish a very friendly relationship, and then people become addicted to the chocolate and need to buy it regularly.
And do you find that you’re busier during the holidays?
Yes, yes, yes, of course. We have two huge periods during the year that are very intense, Christmas and Easter.
For Christmas, we have one month of preparation, and we start well in advance. And really in terms of the activity in the boutique, we start working very intensely around December 15.
And after, obviously we have the Easter season where everything is made out of chocolate, the rabbits, the bells, the little eggs—that’s the tradition. And that lasts for one very intense week.
So there are two very busy periods, but now, people consume more and more chocolate as the year goes on. It’s really a job that continues from the month of October until June. Because there are still holidays: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. June is when school lets out, so we have presents for the teachers. There’s always an occasion for making chocolate, so we work the entire year.
In your opinion, what qualities does a boutique like this need to succeed?
In our opinion, it’s the quality. We maintain our quality—that’s the first thing. We never forget it; it’s what we do and it’s a constant.
We have a consistent product, I would say, a timeless product … We don’t follow fads—we have flavours that remind you of the pralines you at when you were a kid.
And after that, I think that in this line of work, there should never be a final fashion to conform to. One often finds that chocolatiers try to follow fads, fashion, the latest in marketing. We have a consistent product, I would say, a timeless product. We’ve always had a very good praline, a very good ganache. We don’t follow fads—we have flavours that remind you of the pralines you ate when you were a kid. So, I would say: maintain the quality as well as a reasonable price.
And where are your favourite places in Paris to eat and drink?
I really like a restaurant on rue Henri-Monnier, which is just the next street over, called Le Pont Rouge. It’s a little bistro but they make very elaborate meals at reasonable prices. They always use natural products, a little like us—they search for traditional flavours. So I love that restaurant.
What did you find the most interesting about Julie’s story? What other chocolateries in Paris have you visited? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Introduction // Le Furet Tanrade // Thalie // FJ Fleuriste // Boulangerie Bruno Solques // Rêve // Fromagerie Goncourt // Au-delà des Prés // Le Grenier à Pain // Boulangerie des Artistes // Les Fleurs d’Aline // Gontran Cherrier
Interview by Justine Goode – Paris Intern – MyFrenchLife™
All images © Justine Goode