Master Pastry Chef André Bollier, his wife Elsbeth, and their children, emigrate from Switzerland to Kansas City, Missouri, where they open Andre’s Confiserie Suisse. To fund the move and André’s dream of owning his own chocolate shop, the Bolliers publish “Schweizer Konfect” (“Swiss Confections”), a book of recipes for traditional Swiss treats.
The Bolliers persist in their mission to introduce luxury handcrafted Swiss chocolates to the Midwest. André and Elsbeth become avid lifelong supporters of Kansas City’s vibrant art community, attending events and donating products to support local artists, fostering a strong connection between art and the artistry of André’s exquisite chocolates, pastries, tortes and baked goods. The shop’s reputation and customer following grows, resulting in the move from 5008 Main Street to a larger, freestanding building just next door at 5018 Main Street, where André’s still stands today.
With his own business thriving, André welcomes other immigrating Swiss pastry chefs to work in his Kansas City store; those who show true talent and motivation are given the opportunity to open their own businesses elsewhere under the André’s banner, helping to grow brand recognition across the country. Over time, locations open in St. Louis, MO (1962), Denver, CO (1967), Houston, TX (1971) and Menlo Park, CA (1984). However, these remote locations closed as their owners retired, with Denver being the last location, ending its nearly 50-year well-respected run in 2016.
André and Elsbeth commission Kansas City architect E. Crichton “Kite” Singleton to redesign the building’s exterior and, at the same time, begin renovations on the tearoom. New light fixtures, tables and chairs are designed by family friend and fellow Swiss Sam Ryfee, a master craftsman and creator of beautiful metalworks across the United States, including the iconic iron work found throughout the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.
André and Elsbeth’s son Marcel and daughter-in-law Connie move to Switzerland where Marcel spends three years training as a pastry chef while Connie trains in retail operations. They returned to Kansas City in 1974 with a focus on expanding the family business. Their first and most momentous decision is to purchase a chocolate enrobing machine that greatly increases production capabilities.
The original freestanding building is demolished and a new building is raised in its place, featuring a larger retail store, production area, and an expanded tea room.
André passes away in late November and Marcel takes on the role of president and CEO as well as that of the honorary consulate to Switzerland. As a tribute to André’s steadfast support of the art community, local artists create works in his memory. Renowned artist Dr. Richard Bergen crafts a bronze sculpture that stands in the foyer. Internationally acclaimed fiber artist and family friend Jason Pollen creates “Banquet for André,” an elaborate silk fiber work depicting André's signature products, that hangs in the entrance to the tea room.
André’s adds a new downstairs production area and an upstairs warehouse in 1989. A retail store renovation follows in 1993, with the addition of a new display window, ceiling detail and an archway of brick encircling a glass atrium. A sign reading “Chocolate Candy Division” completes the look of the expanded building.
After working in the hotel and tourism industry in Switzerland as well as working for the family business, André’s daughter, Brigitte Bollier, opens a second Kansas City-area André’s location in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband Kevin Gravino. The store is named André’s Rivaz after the region in Switzerland where members of the family once lived.
Also in 2002 … After spending several years training in some of the top pastry shops in Switzerland as a konditor confiseur (chocolatier and pastry chef), André’s grandson (and Marcel and Connie’s son) René Bollier returns to Kansas City with his wife, Nancy, to lead the business into its third generation.
To mark five decades of sustained growth, André’s releases “Chocumentary,” a behind-the-scenes look at the business and the dedicated team. The documentary premieres at a 50th anniversary gala celebration and charity fundraiser that treats more than 500 guests to guided tours, refreshments and live music.
Driven by continuing growth, the business undertakes yet another expansion in 2007, adding a bake shop, office space, conference room, and employee facilities.
In 2014, Andrés commissions KEM Studio, an award-winning Kansas City architecture firm, to design an expanded retail space and a modern street-front café inspired by Swiss coffee bars. The design also includes a front entry created in collaboration with A. Zahner, an aluminum plate abstraction of drizzled chocolate created by René Bollier. In 2017, KEM gives André’s iconic tearoom a refresh, restoring its original wooden chalet and copper fireplace (designed by André) and adding modern elements that include bar-style seating and pendant lights.
René turns his focus to expanding the André’s brand nationally through online sales and wholesale networks. As part of this effort, the company challenges Kansas City-based Willoughby Design to create a fresh new look for its product packaging, “keep the old while bringing in the new.”
The redesigned packaging showcases the Bollier family’s rich Swiss history, incorporating the deep red of the Swiss flag and distinctive custom graphics based on Scherenschnitte (German for “scissor cuts”), a traditional paper-cutting art distinguished by its precision and elegance — the same qualities that three generations of the Bollier family have strived to bring to chocolate-making. The new packaging launchs at the 2017 Fancy Food Show in New York with overwhelming success, gaining an appearance in media outlets and in retailers nationwide.
Andrés founder Elsbeth Bollier, dubbed “Mutti” by those who knew her best, passes away in April 2021, having spent 6 decades helping to build the company that bears her husband’s name. She is well remembered by family and friends alike for her strong character, her intense pride in the family craft, and her commitment to the community she called home for more than 60 years.