1902 to 1959 – A very English French shop123
The first Prestat shop was opened at 24 South Molton Street and the business clearly thrived. Antoine soon opened a more eye-catching store a few hundred yards away at 405 Oxford Street and we suspect the South Molton premises were principally used for manufacturing.
It is now one of London’s more fashionable shopping streets and
the days of manufacturing in central London have long since gone. Antoine also opened a store in the City of London at 28 & 29 St Swithin’s Lane to satisfy the gluttonous financial community.
We have pictures of Antoine, who was completely bald, beautifully dressed in starched collar and dress shirt with a neatly trimmed beard and a magnificent moustache. He was a striking and
Antoine and Amelia had five children (Tony, Jeanette, Winifred (aka Lesley), Doris and Warwick) and groomed their eldest Tony to take over the business. We don’t have a date at which Tony assumed control but we know that he ran the business through until the end of the 1950s. The pictures we have of him are of a handsome young man in military uniform and as a much older gentleman in morning coat with a
glass of champagne in his hand.
HE WOULD HAVE TO SELL PRESTAT IF IT WAS TO
The first store
Tony, however, had two misfortunes in life, one of which was to contract tuberculosis, which affected his health throughout his life, and the second was to manage the business through World War II.When it came to light that there had been a Prestat shop at 405 Oxford Street I went for a walk, eager to find the building and look back at the past. The building, however, no longer exists.
It seems probable that it was destroyed during the war for our own grandfather’s office in nearby Brooke Street was flattened by a bomb. It might have closed regardless of the Luftwaffe as running a high-class chocolate business during the conflict must have been close to impossible. The St Swithin’s Lane shop had also closed by the time the war ended.
As a result, the South Molton Street site reverted to being the sole Prestat store and it was from there that Tony ran the business through the difficult period of rationing in the 1950s. It would have been a Herculean task and he succeeded only to be faced with the most difficult of all decisions. Entering old age and with no children of his own, he would have to sell Prestat if it were to survive. The Dufour period of ownership was about to end.