The cutler’s trade


The cutler’s trade formed part of the Guild of Locksmiths and Ironworkers of Barcelona, founded in 1380 by King Peter the Ceremonious. Knives and scissors, daggers and short swords, of variable quality, were sold and restored in its workshops.

In the early 16th century the cutlers formed their own guild, which established the examination its members had to pass to reach the rank of master craftsmen, consisting of a piece of work related to the guild, the “masterpiece”. No lenience was possible: the guild had to uphold the dignity of the trade through this examination.

New techniques for treating steel cutting tools to achieve a modern degree of perfection arrived in Catalonia in the mid-19th century. Catalan cutlers had to complete their training in France in order to be competitive.

Ramon Roca brings new European techniques to Catalonia


This was the case of Ramon Roca i Santamaria, who learnt his craft in Germany and France and who, upon his return, opened a shop and workshop on 13th November 1911 at number 10, Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, together with his brother Josep.

Ramon Roca, originally from the town of Cardona, had learnt the cutler’s trade in Ripoll and in the cutler’s shop of his uncle, Joan Santamaria, on the Carrer d’Escudellers in Barcelona. His enterprising nature led him to find out about the new techniques at the workshop of Monsieur Avelin in París, and to visit the top factories in Solingen, the two leading centres in this trade.

His experience abroad enabled him to be the first to make high-quality shaving razors and scalpels by hand. To do this he ordered a special anvil from the Paris workshop of Aubert Duval, the same one as today presides over the shop, in order to meet the demand by his professional clients, and started importing top-quality European pieces, earning a popularity which spread all over the country.

A new name for an advanced shop and workshop: ganiveteria


In the year 1916 the business moved to its current location, at the Plaça del Pi number 3. Their uncle’s advice was decisive in choosing these premises: “Don’t hesitate: it’s opposite a church.”

The Rocas thought new technology called for a new name. They called the shop a “ganiveteria” (knife shop) rather than the traditional “dagueria” (cutler’s) or “eines de tall” (cutting tools). This new word, a literal translation into Catalan of the Spanish “cuchillería”, created a stir in the press, until the controversy was settled with an article by Rovira i Virgili which convinced everybody of the word’s legitimacy.

On the sign they added “Solingen Paris Barcelona”, in homage to the two great manufacturing centres of cutting tools and suggesting that Barcelona, since the arrival of the Roca brothers, could aspire to compete with them. This is why the establishment was also known as Can Solingen.

A shop designed as a spacious showcase


Ramon Roca himself is said to have drawn up the plans for the shop, which was decorated in the Viennese style of foreign establishments in the same trade. Sinuous arches, ovals, garlands and friezes of geometrical flowers filled its interior, products of the skill of the carpenter Viñoli.

It was conceived to lead the eye to the wide variety of products on displayed in glass showcases and counters which have become one of its signature images. Its windows displayed the articles in an artistic way, at the same time explaining what they were for and how to use them, and presenting the latest from the most prestigious international manufacturers.

Since then it has not changed very much. Repeated renovations have conserved the original decoration that gives the shop its distinctive character. Of the period chairs, put there so that customers could pass the time chatting, two have survived, and are displayed in a prominent place. Over the door, the passing of years and customers have not erased the slogan “Casa de confiança” [“Trusted Establishment”].

Josep Roca imports the most select of the leading European brands


A terrible influenza epidemic in 1918 carried off Ramon Roca among its victims, two years after opening the Ganiveteria. His brother Josep took charge of the business at the age of just eighteen, together with his wife Caterina Cassola i Solà, giving it a new direction, improving its image and starting to advertise all over the country.

The gradual replacement of handmade cutting tools by more efficient industrial forms of production led them to decide, without giving up their own workshop, to build up their imports from the top European factories, in particular articles made in Solingen, which from then on were the shop’s great contribution to the Barcelona market.

It was Josep Roca who introduced into Barcelona, in the thirties, the finest Swiss stainless steel cutlery, something completely new in this country, which did not start making anything similar until the 1950s. He also sold shaving and manicure equipment from firms like Carl Rader, Richard Herbez and Henckels in Germany; Rogers in England; Esquilstuna in Sweden and Louis Minel in France, among others.

The new generation brings the Ganiveteria up to date


The Spanish Civil War and the post-war period closed the doors to imports. The shop consolidated the Roca brand thanks to domestic manufacturers like Bueno Hnos. and Fills de Pere Ramon of Olot, and to the specialisation of their employees. The workshop continued to provide the service of repairing and making pieces to order.

Decades later, the shop was able to re-establish contact with its old suppliers. Maria Roser and Montserrat, Josep Roca’s daughters, embarked on a renovation of the shop, restoring the Art Nouveau tiles on its front and fitting it out for new customer habits. Maria Roser dealt with customers, staff and the image of the shop. Montserrat took charge of the window displays and the whole of the more technical side: relations with manufacturers, workshops, trade customers and so on.

Barcelona pays homage on our 75th anniversary


On Saint Eligius’ Day – 1st December – in 1986 the shop celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding. It was a true homage to the establishment and to the efforts of two generations devoted to the business, both parents and children. The occasion was attended by cultural and professional representatives of the city, neighbours and friends, and was reported in the press and on television.

At the event the first visitor’s book was presented, now testimony to the many employees, customers, friends and famous visitors who have passed through the establishment. This was the beginning of a new custom, that of giving customers a pocket calendar every year with a design linked to the shop or else to the trade itself.

The new era at Ganiveteria Roca S.A.


Josep Roca died on 17th May 1990. His daughters carried on running the shop, having been directors since 1981, when the business was set up as a limited company. A year later, in 1991, they were awarded the PIMEC prize for enterprising women.

It was also time to renew the team, as a result of the retirement of former employees. Maria Roser and Montserrat took charge of training the new assistants.

Spain’s entry into the Common Market meant a chance to visit the international trade fairs in Frankfurt and Milan: new deals without any middlemen to limit the selection of stock and push up the price, and new contacts with firms like Draizack, Dovo and Dreitrum in Germany, Omega and Montana in Italy and Fiskars in Finland, keen to have a showcase like Ganiveteria Roca in the city of Barcelona.

The 21st century, new management by a group of cutlers.


Since the year 2000 Ganiveteria Roca has been run by a group of cutlers with a solid tradition in the trade. Thus, with the new century it has embarked on a new era, looking to the future but respecting the history of the business.

A history that explains the importance today of a prosperous shop which has managed to make the craft tradition – prioritising quality work above all else – compatible with modernisation in a business open to new techniques, in step with changing times.

Today, as a private limited company, it is still recognised as a shop selling specialist goods. For example, it is the only outlet in Spain for Michel Bras knives.