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Souvenirs Souvenirs Ep. 3 - Nicolas Alary
Souvenirs Souvenirs Ep. 3 - Nicolas Alary
03 September 2023
Creative and talented individuals worldwide sharing their cherished merch gems!

In this third episode of “Souvenirs, Souvenirs” Nicolas Alary, co-founder of Holybelly and producer of Holybelly Studios, takes us on a journey.

Nicolas Alary - co-founder of  Holybellyand producer of  Holybelly Studios- Paris, France. 
Photographer :  Sylvain Ali.

Hello Nicolas, before we get into the merch details, could you share with us your journey leading up to the opening of Holybelly?
For seven years, I embarked on a journey with my life partner Sarah. After completing our studies in audiovisual, we ventured to England, then to Vancouver, and ultimately found ourselves in Melbourne, Australia. It was there that we immersed ourselves in the vibrant coffee culture. Despite lacking formal diplomas, Sarah delved into the culinary world, while I honed my skills as a barista. As our visas came to an end in 2012, we made our way back to Paris.

When you came back to Paris in 2012, was it a straightforward choice to establish Holybelly?
Back in 2012, the concept of Australian café culture was just beginning to take root in Paris, with establishments like  Ten Bellesand  Télescopeleading the way. We embarked on our journey in a modest manner, securing a 69 m² space at 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix in the 10th arrondissement. This former couscous restaurant underwent a complete metamorphosis into an Australian-inspired space.

From this former couscous restaurant, Holybelly underwent a complete metamorphosis into an Australian-inspired space, accommodating around 30 patrons and operating daily from 09:00 am to 5:00 pm.

How did you establish Holybelly's identity?
Our approach was straightforward: we focused on a hands-on approach to everything. This philosophy was reflected not only in the name but also in the menu and service. We believed that if food is regarded as sacred, then the quality, freshness, and seasonal nature of ingredients, the level of service, the welcoming atmosphere, and even the visual identity should all align with this sacredness.

Holybelly has an impressive merchandise collection. Can you describe the process of developing it?
In our inaugural year, we independently designed our logo, cards, and menu. Later, in collaboration with  Those Jazz Catsin Sydney, we brought our visual identity to life, resulting in the now-iconic t-shirt that remains close to our hearts even after a decade. In 2019, we broadened our range of merchandise to include Bernardaud porcelain plates, mugs tailored for filtered coffee, and our signature homemade "Mother Sauce." We set up both a physical showcase for our merchandise and an online store, a rarity in the industry.

How can merchandise transform the restaurant experience?
Merchandising possesses a unique ability to foster connections and sometimes even enhance reputation. In this way, merchandise becomes an extension of positive emotions. Merchandising serves as a powerful means to spark conversations.

"In this way, merchandise becomes an extension of positive emotions, providing restaurateurs with added tangible and documentary support."

T-shirt - In-N-Out (Arizona, USA) and St Viateur (Montreal, Canada) - “I hold in my hands a gift from a customer: an In-N-Out t-shirt. Over in the United States, each state has its own t-shirt, and this one represents Arizona. I'm wearing a St Viateur t-shirt, hailing from the Montreal institution famous for its bagels, where Sarah and I visited last April.”

The original Holybelly t-shirt has certainly been on quite a journey, hasn't it?
In 2018, on a spontaneous impulse, I sent a Holybelly t-shirt to the "Hot Ones" show. Before long, Sean Evans was sporting our t-shirt alongside Jack Black. I also kicked off the "T-shirt Swap" project. I posted a simple announcement on social media, inviting hospitality venues and grocery stores to exchange their merch for ours. I ended up receiving 150 envelopes from around the globe, including some from remote corners of Japan. This endeavor resulted in an impressive array of t-shirts originating from the most unlikely of places. I've even entertained the idea of cataloging these t-shirts someday, possibly compiling them into a book.

What stands as your all-time favorite merch item?
My most cherished t-shirt comes from A1 Bakery in Melbourne. I had to persistently pursue it, as they don't typically sell it. This particular t-shirt embodies all that I hold dear and symbolizes an establishment I deeply admire.

T-shirt - Brutos (Paris, France) - “Ninon and Lucas from Brutos are friends. I met Lucas back in the days of the first Holybelly. He would come to the bar and order two cappuccinos, and we would have conversations while I was working. At that time, he was in the process of opening Brutos. As I often say, we know how their story unfolded!”

Words : Julien Dô Le Pham
Images :  Sylvain Ali 

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