Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.
My sister Sophie and I run a cheese shop that has been in our family for four generations now. It is located at the Yzerenleen and we are open all day from Tuesday to Saturday, and on Sunday from 7h until 13h. We have five employees that work with us every day to serve and advise our costumers, and four students that work with us during the weekends. It is a small store so our staff feels a bit like family. We also have a very loyal clientele. Yzerenleen is the only street in Mechelen that contains multiple family stores instead of the big brand stores in the rest of the city centre. The buildings are in the historical style that is typical for Mechelen.
How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?
Mechelen is not too big, which is a real advantage for people who like to explore its cultural centre. But there are also plenty of opportunities to do some shopping or eat and drink in one of our many cosy restaurants and bars. Mechelen has everything that a big city needs but it is more compact. This makes it an ideal place for young families.
What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?
The diversity in the population, and its modest size. The stores have a nice character to them, and the city centre is a very nice place to take a stroll down the streets. The walkway next to the Dyle river has been renovated, and when the sun is out, being in Mechelen can feel just like being on holiday.
How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
I was raised in Mechelen and I lived here until I was 23, then I moved to the Dominican Republic for six years. When my father told me about his plans to sell his store, it made me think about my future and opportunities. So in the end, I decided to come back home to this beautiful city and take over the store together with my sister Sophie. For me, Mechelen is the best town in Belgium. Always was and always will be.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?
Small businesses are disappearing for a number of reasons, mainly e-commerce and the lack of accessibility by car. This is a shame, because these entrepreneurs carry a bit of the city’s spirit in them.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?
The top of the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral and the Dossin Kazerne are truly worth a visit. I would also recommend the brewery ‘Het Anker’, because we have our own beer produced there and it is very tasty.