Meet Christine Springolo, who joined Opinel on 23 October 1977 and retired on 31 May 2023. 45 years and 7 months, a lifetime working at Opinel...

Christine Springolo
Christine Springolo

What has your career path been with Opinel?


After obtaining my secretarial BEP, I joined Opinel on 23 October 1977 at the age of 18 on a work contract for unemployed under-25s. I spent 32 years in the sales department and then 13 years in the marketing department, including 6 years in the archives. I retired on 31 May 2023 after 45 years and 7 months' service.

In 45 years I've met a lot of wonderful people, and I've forged bonds with some of them. I've seen the company evolve in the way it manages. For some years, relations with management were more of a 'family' affair. There were difficult moments and others that allowed me to take a step back and adapt (my mother called this "bend like a reed" as in the fable by La Fontaine).

At Cognin I was a staff representative and a member of the works council for several years. I also passed my first aid certificate and for 20 years, still in Cognin, I treated small minor injuries.

During my time in the marketing department, I was responsible for preparing trade fairs, dealing with donations and partnerships, as well as producing mock-ups for companies and also price lists.

How did it all begin?


One day, when I was looking for work after my secretarial studies, my business teacher at the lycée Jules Ferry called to tell me that Opinel was looking for a secretary. I got an appointment and turned up accompanied by my mother, as was still the custom at the time (my father could also have accompanied me, but he was out of town that day). We were greeted by M. Maurice Opinel, who ushered us into a small lounge (there was a N°13 open in resin, it was impressive!). We sat down and started the interview when suddenly the door swung open, and I saw someone with glasses on the end of his nose watching us. It was M. Marcel Opinel in his overalls. He came in and sat down. The interview continued with M. Maurice.

A few days later I received a letter (which I still have) stating in three lines that I should report on 23 October to start work at Opinel.

I multitasked for 2 years, doing data entry, secretarial work (for Mr Maurice Opinel), switchboard work and cost accounting (I added up figures that someone dictated to me to fill in tables). Then I got a permanent job in the sales department.

What is the job or assignment during your career at Opinel that you have enjoyed the most?


I enjoyed working in the sales department, being in contact with customers, representatives, etc. I enjoyed working in the marketing department on partnerships, prices, gifts, the Maison&Objet show and so many other things. But I loved working in the archives.

What did you like best about your work in the archives?


I would like to point out that Opinel has been archiving for many years. I just took it over and now someone else is succeeding me.

I realised that I would have liked to have done this all my life! I had fun, I felt good, I made discoveries, I marvelled. What's special about archives is that we work with things that have already had a life of their own. They may no longer have an interest for the present, but they will have one in the future if need be. Archives are the source of a company's history. It's all the years and moments I've spent with the company that have made me more aware of the importance of keeping a record.


What's the best archive you've ever seen?


There is no one in particular. Everything is beautiful. From September 2022 to May 2023, I worked with Brigitte Opinel on the archives of M. Maurice Opinel. As I went through the documents, I noted his meticulousness, his attention to detail, dating and the objects that belonged to him. Once again, so many memories. We found razors, a few tools, scissors, knives and more knives!... And more unusually, at one time Opinel worked with companies that made shoes, and we sold them "cambrions" (an elongated steel part placed within the sole).

As someone who has known both the head office and the factory in Cognin, can you tell us about the major changes in the company?

"The Cognin factory"


To access the factory, there was a car park at the back and an interior courtyard, but some people, like me, preferred to park on the terrace. We had to be careful because the access was on a bend. There was a very old chestnut tree on the pavement that was uprooted one stormy day (long after we left Cognin). In 1977, apart from the wood workshop in Chambéry, the entire factory was in Cognin. When the varnish workshop was in operation, the smell spread throughout the offices.

Sometimes I had to go into the factory to tell a manager that he was needed on the phone. I was apprehensive when I had to pluck up the courage because there was a stone staircase with a few steps that had been so polished by the passage of time that they were slippery.


In the late 70s and early 80s, new buildings were constructed in Chambéry. Packaging, assembly and shipping have all moved away from Cognin. More space has been made available, additional offices have been created and others renovated and reorganised.

When I joined Opinel, M. Maurice Opinel was both CEO and Sales Director. There was a personnel manager, an accountant, a plant manager and an engineer.

We communicated with customers by post for orders and so on, and a little by telephone, and above all, IT was already present. When I was told that I was going to receive training, I immediately embraced the technology.

Opinel has always kept up with developments in the society in which we live: telephone (direct lines), Minitel, telex, fax, pagers, mobile phones, as well as IT, hardware updates, etc. I remember that in the 80s, companies from the Chambéry area came to see us working on our IBMs! We had huge processors. Work was carried out on 3 generations of backups each time procedures were launched. Memories, memories! And then there was the construction in Chambéry in 2003. Goodbye Cognin. Everything was bigger: the offices, the workshops, the car park. And always the desire to move forward. The most extraordinary thing was the lift. A joy for me, who now has problems getting around. It has been a really useful tool. I hope I've helped its cushioning!



"And then there was the construction in Chambéry in 2003. Goodbye Cognin. Everything was bigger: the offices, the workshops, the car park."

When you see that Opinel now has 160 employees, what does that mean to you?


"It's really crazy!" An administrative secretary told me a long time ago that in the first half of the 20th century, there were more than 100 people. I tell myself that the brand still has so much to say and do, it never ends. A handle, a blade, a rivet, a fixed ferrule, a rotating ferrule: there's an infinite variety of wood, colours and perhaps even steel. There have even been knives with Damascus blades! 

Of all the knives you've seen, which is your favourite Opinel and why?

My favourite knife size is the N°06. I think it's feminine and classy. It's the ideal size. When we started working with rosewood, I was dazzled by the beauty of the grain and the variations in colour. One day someone gave me a N°06 with a rosewood handle. I kept it in my bag for a long time.

I also really like the Chaperon knives and the horn-handled knives, but the one I prefer is the N°08 knife for the company's 125th anniversary. It's a magnificent piece of work. But that's just me!


How have you managed to maintain your motivation and commitment throughout your career at Opinel?


Basically, the motivation is the salary, which allows us to live. However, I was lucky enough to change jobs within the company. In 2009, after some health problems and five months off work, the management offered me the chance to work with Françoise in the marketing department. At our first meeting I said to her, "You know, Françoise, I'm 50", in the sense that "I'm not young any more". She replied that it didn't bother her, on the contrary, and off we went! I knew nothing about marketing, but Françoise was always there to help me move forward. It really has been a great working relationship with mutual trust. In the sales department, I sold the knives. In marketing, I got to know the knives before they were sold. I've really liked Opinel knives throughout my career.


Tell us your wildest Opinel anecdote.


There have been so many! At work, you're there to work. But when we could 'steal' a few minutes to have a laugh, that was really good. One day M. Maurice Opinel came into the office while we were having a good laugh and said: "ah it's good we can have a laugh here!" This froze us dead in our tracks.

One day in Cognin, Christian Stein, Sales Director, came out of his office, very upset, and said: "Meeting in the yellow office immediately". Jeannine, my manager, and I went along. He sat down and took a few deep breaths before saying: "I saw that some information came out of the department and was in the works council press release. I'm warning you, there's going to be blood on the walls." We didn't think much of it at the time, but it turned out that the leak wasn't coming from the department. Afterwards, we often used this expression between ourselves.

At your retirement party, when you were presented with your personalised knife, you had stars in your eyes as if it was the first knife you'd ever been given, it was a truly beautiful moment.


Well yes, it was a great pleasure. Created just for me. My next purchase as a pensioner will be the Perpétue entremet and moka cutlery! I can't get enough of it! Opinel to infinity and beyond!

"Opinel to infinity and beyond! »

What would you like to do when you retire?


My health worries don't leave me much choice, but all the same. I'm behind with my reading. I'd like to take the time to cook and try new things. My flat needs a makeover. I have a lot of sorting to do. I'm not going to be bored! And then I'll come and visit you sometimes!

When you retire, you change your pace of life. Rest periods are no longer made up of weekends and 5 weeks' holiday! For me, retirement is another world. I'm going to miss my colleagues and the work rhythm. But little by little things will fall into place. And then I'll receive an invitation every year to the medal ceremony. A chance to meet again. Retirement? It's Sunday every day! Another life begins. From now on, everything I do will be dictated solely by what I choose to do.

"From now on, everything I do will be dictated solely by what I choose to do."

Maurice Opinel
Maurice Opinel


Before closing the chapter on my working life, I would like to say a few words about M. Maurice Opinel: he was a very human and accessible company director, whatever our status in the company. The staff respected him. I'm happy to have known him and worked with him, at my level of course. In the Opinel family in Cognin, I knew Marcel, Maurice, Denis, Brigitte and François. From Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne I knew Jacques and Maxime.