New Shop Offers American Goods - and American Service
March 12, 2016, 6:57 pm
More than 3,700 fans "like" shop with home delivery
By James Rogers
GENVAL – Pop-Tarts, Altoids, Snapple…most Anglophone expats know a handful of shops that can satisfy the guilty pleasures they brought to Belgium with them. None of them are in central Brussels, and the opening hours can be, well, pretty Belgian. It’s a pilgrimage, really, and can be fraught with stress: When will I be here again? How many should I buy? "I’ve had so many things expire because I waited too long for that ‘worthy moment’ to open them,” one American expat told L’Anglophone.
A new shop, My Sweet America, hopes to take away all of that angst by adding a new ingredient: American-style customer service.
My Sweet America's storefront in Genval, open 7 days a week from 8:30-19:30. Internet orders are delivered overnight in Belgium for 4.50€ (up to 2 kg). PHOTO: L'Anglophone
“By living in the USA, I really learned what customer service means,” explained James, the shop owner, in a recent interview. A native of France, the owner and his (Belgian) wife have lived in New York City and Los Angeles for the past several years; she has worked for some of the top clothing retailers in America. The shop’s website has a photo gallery with pictures from both coasts, including a shot of Rodeo Drive – and spending an hour inside My Sweet America, one can see the similarities: customers were offered fresh coffee, Golden Oreos, and a leather armchair. Regulars were greeted by name.
Not all of the 3,729 people (as of publication) who have liked the store on Facebook are likely to have this experience, because most of them are shopping on-line and taking advantage of James’s chief innovation in the market: delivery. On the shop's Facebook timeline, many customers have posted pictures of their just-opened parcels of cranberry juice and buttery microwave popcorn. In Belgium, most orders are delivered within 24 hours by bPost for 4.50 €. The concept has been such a success that 30% of customers have found their way to the site from outside of Belgium. Many orders come from France, and some from as far away as Poland.
Located across from the Genval station, the shop is only 18 minutes from Brussels-Luxembourg by train, but the owner knows he’s hardly in a bustling commercial hub. But that’s the way he likes it: “I could be in the center of Brussels or Waterloo, but then I’d never really get to know my customers. It would all be too transactional,” said James. “I would really like that my store becomes a meeting point.”
While most of My Sweet America’s original customers were expats, “we also have people who are big fans of American movies, in mythical scenes where you see American products such as Dr Pepper,” said James. There is also a growing clientele of young Belgians who spot something in his shop window they’ve seen on TV or the Internet. “There are the fads that come from the USA, where teens try something and then give their views on YouTube. That has a snowball effect on European teens,” he added.
The idea for the store came from a common expat experience. Whenever he and his wife came back to visit France and Belgium, James recounted, “there were requests from family and friends: ‘Can you bring me the Jack Daniel BBQ sauce? And some pancake syrup, please?’” James then began setting up his new business.
L’Anglophone welcomes My Sweet America to Belgium. Give it a try before ever risking pancake syrup in your suitcase again.
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