Nathalie DimasOwner of ATELIER ND - Lebanon
CHOCOLATE SHOP SUCCESS STORY
1- What can you tell us about your professional career?
Ever since I was a child, I have been passionate about crafting things with my own hands and very much interested in the arts in general. After a Master’s Degree in Art Direction from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA) and an MBA from the ESA Business School, I started my career in graphic design in 2005, working mostly with brands in the food and beverage sector.
A few years later, I decided to offer my clients some of my chocolate truffles as Christmas presents, and that’s where it all started. I haven’t stopped making them since.
Making chocolate is an art in itself that involves a lot of precision and chemistry. It was difficult at first, but my natural aptitude for marrying flavors and some private courses from a French chef in basic pastry helped me persevere and eventually master the dark arts of chocolate making.
2- How did you end up specializing in chocolate?
I always loved coming home after a long day’s work, heading to the kitchen and spending the evening making chocolates – with a lot of help from my husband! But catering for orders from home during the day, when you have another job, became almost impossible. That’s when I started opening a pop-up store in the prestigious ABC mall in the Achrafieh district of Beirut, Lebanon, for Easter and Christmas. It was all finally real. It wasn’t just a hobby anymore, and I wanted to make sure I had the best expertise on my side. That’s when my relationship with Valrhona started. I received a tremendous amount of help from Valrhona Lebanon and Mr. Pierre Azar, who personally put me in contact with L’École du Grand Chocolat in Tain l’Hermitage, France, where I enrolled in numerous workshops over the years.
Creativity is a major challenge in a very competitive market. Atelier nd is now renowned for its minimalist yet luxurious packaging that reflects its high-end positioning. Some companies have even copied our design! This decision was born from my experience in printing and production, where mastering little techniques can make the biggest difference between a box that only looks good and a box that looks good and feels solid. I also work very closely with my customers to personalize their chocolates. Coming from a creative background, I excel at working on a project from concept to execution.
Innovation keeps customers curious, and keeps them coming back to discover what new flavors are out each season.
I am always cooking up something new – seasonal products, limited editions, and even creations that end up joining our essential “incontournables” permanent collection, from chocolates to truffles, and even ice cream.
In 2014, ABC mall suggested that atelier nd should have a permanent store, as customers were constantly asking about our products, all year round. That’s when making chocolate became my full time job. From my little kitchen at home, I moved to a 170 sqm workshop and recruited staff to assist me with production. A second branch at another ABC mall shortly followed. In 2019, I doubled the workspace to expand atelier nd’s production capacity as I was getting corporate orders from big businesses and banks.
3- To what do you owe the success of your store?
Consistency is key for any brand or product. From the very start, I have always used the highest quality ingredients, and made sure I always had the best knowledge to ensure a perfect process. Despite the difficult economic situation in my beloved country, we continue to strive for the very best, which keeps customers coming back as they are sure they will always enjoy the same taste, the same quality, and the same service. This has built trust and loyalty around the brand in a way I never expected.
4- What are your plans for Atelier nd?
One of atelier nd’s core values is to create awareness about how to indulge in chocolate. We are planning to develop on an international level, beyond the Lebanese borders, but in the near future, atelier nd will be open to all chocolate lovers to come and experience firsthand the art of chocolate making in our workshop.
Spending time around chocolate kindles a sense of happiness that I would like to share with everyone. Chocolate making teaches patience and perseverance, and the aromas you bathe in allow you to attain inner peace.