This Knife Store is Older than America

In 2017, most knives are bought online, often from retailers who don’t even operate brick and mortar stores. But Coutellerie du Roi has been selling blades and steel since 1750, even before most of the very oldest knife brands were established. Located in Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the European Union, Coutellerie du Roi is one of the oldest knife dealers in the western world. A nearby competitor, Coutellerie Jamart, is also nearly 200 years-old; a second reminder of the city’s deep cutlery heritage and its staying power.

Coutellerie du Roi was founded as a storefront for a knife factory in Namur, an industrial city on the Meuse River to the southeast. But according to current owners much of the shop’s first 130 years are shrouded in mystery. Proprietor Anne Cielen says even the store’s original location in Brussels and the providence of its name are unknown.

The store’s name roughly translates to ‘cutlery shop of the king,’ but the question is, which king? “Belgium was not even a kingdom in 1750,” Cielen points out. At that time, Brussels was part of the Austrian Netherlands empire, ruled by Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I.

Maybe the name was chosen out of an aspiration for greatness. If so, it did the trick. Belgium won its sovereignty in 1831, and Cielen is proud to count the country’s current monarchs, King Albert and Queen Paola, as two of her customers.

La Coutellerie du Roi

The shop moved to its current location in the famous Passage du Nord in 1881, when the ornate shopping arcade was first constructed. The store’s interior remains largely unchanged even if the knives on display are constantly evolving.

Customers will find modern folders from Benchmade and Spyderco sharing shelf-space with traditional European cutlery like Lagioule knives from neighboring France. Balisongs and switchblades are noticeably absent owing to Belgium’s strict 2006 knife laws. Even slipjoints can be seized by local police if the owner can’t justify carrying one.

Böker, the only major surviving knife brand that outdates Coutellerie du Roi, has honored the Belgian institution with a special edition of the Titan Lockback gentleman’s folder.

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Coutellerie du Roi sells much more than folding knives. It is a true cutlery shop, with the whole gamut of edged tools from kitchen and camp knives to nail clippers and embroidery scissors on offer. “There is a rising demand for razors and traditional folding razors, particularly amongst younger people,” Cielen tells us. The shop also educates its customers on the maintenance of their tools, and offers sharpening services for those who prefer a professional touch.

La Coutellerie du Roi