Five men and an idea - 100 years in chocolate!
While Russell & Atwell celebrate our 1st year, this October also marks 100 years for Giles (Atwell's) family working in Chocolate.
Back on 20th October 1921 with the very first order of a 7lb chocolate block, 'Lesme Ltd' was Founded by my grandfather (Leslie Atwell, later OBE) with '5 men and an idea' on Scrubbs Lane in London. The business and the factory remained and thrived there until the early 1980s when my Dad (David) ran it, moved it to Banbury and led it to become the single largest UK manufacturer of couverture chocolate. Eventually the company became part of the Barry Callebaut global chocolate business in 1990.
While you are unlikely to have heard of the brand, you probably ate their chocolate. That's because Lesme made 'couverture' chocolate that went into and onto foods like the first Walls Choc Ice in 1927, Maryland Cookies in the 1950s and lots and lots of other products sold in bakeries, chocolate shops, restaurants, cafes and many major supermarkets in the UK and across the world.
The chocolate was supplied in blocks initially, then in chips in the 1950s and latterly in liquid form in chocolate tankers from 1958 for larger customers - imagine a tanker with 15 tons of liquid chocolate!
I have vivid childhood memories of charging down the corridor to barge into my Dad's office on a Friday evening at Scrubbs Lane and sample the latest flavours, despite being instructed to wait outside; of the beautiful hand-made eggs we would receive at Easter and, above all, of often discussing and never running out of chocolate at home!
It's kind of wonderful to be writing this all these years later, sitting at my Grandfather's slightly battered desk and with the little Lesme toy tanker I played with as a child keeping me company as Steve and I build our new business.
It was also very special to be joined on our stand when we exhibited at the Fine Food Show a couple of weeks ago by my Dad, who had both parental and professional curiosity as to what we were up to!
Having by chance ended up working in Cadbury, where I stayed for 14 years, and then Godiva, I had long had a dream to start my own business in chocolate. So, it was with 'Two men and a fresh Idea', that Steve and I hatched Russell & Atwell almost 100 years after Lesme began.
If you've read this far, on what is a somewhat self-indulgent and certainly nostalgic blog - thank you!
Here's to the next 100 years in Chocolate...
If you'd like to read our 1st birthday blog - click here:
And for our second birthday blog - click here