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June 2006

Spice it Up


It started out as a small spice shop. Today, 300 years later, Munich’s famous delicatessen, Dallmayr, attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year, a figure that puts it ahead in the rankings of even the likes of Neuschwanstein Castle. We sharpened our elbows—to take on the heaving crowds in the Dienerstrasse shop—and set out to explore the story behind one of the city’s most delicious institutions. The name Alois Dallmayr has long been synonymous with all things gourmet. Yet Dallmayr himself was only associated with the business for a short part of its long history. Indeed, it was one Christian Reitter who established the original spice store, at the site of its current location, somewhere between 1671 and 1700, the year of the shopkeeper’s death. Though records show that his two daughters inherited the business, little is known of what happened over the course of the 170 years that followed. However, the store was still in existence when, in 1870, it was bought by Alois Dallmayr, a businessman from Wolnzach in the Holledau region of Bavaria. He resold the business only 25 years later, yet his name has been kept to this day. The next owner, Anton Randlkofer,had an even shorter run. When he died just two years later, the business was passed down to his widow, Therese Randlkofer. Though, at the time, it was unusual for a woman to be in such a leading position, Therese Randlkofer did not shy from the challenge. Her business acumen and skill in establishing social contacts saw the delicatessen flourish. By the early 1900s, Dallmayr was among Europe’s leading delicatessens—its customer base even included 15 of the continent’s royal households. Fourteen of these, it is said, were thanks to the work of Therese Randlkofer. With such royal status, it was not surprising when the Dallmayr was awarded the title of Royal Purveyor to the Bavarian Court (Königlich Bayerischer Hoflieferant), giving them the honor of making daily deliveries to Prince Luitpold of Bavaria. But Randlkofer’s skills lay not just in networking. An innovative businesswoman, she was the first to import bananas to Germany and ordered mangos, plums and lychees from China. Randlkofer was also the talk of the city for introducing bright lights and advertising hoardings to the store. Her drive led to the store’s rapid expansion: By 1912, Dallmayr had more than 70 employees. Times were not always good, however. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and ensuing period of economic depression, the business suffered a downturn as people turned away from luxury goods. To counter this, Dallmayr looked to new products and, between 1931 and 1933, introduced a new line in coffee, under the guidance of a 19-year-old Bremen native and coffee expert, Konrad Werner Wille. Indeed, the coffee line has gone from strength to strength. Despite a hiccough in World War II—when the store not only burned down, but coffee was only available on the black market—the business soon recovered. Today, Dallmayr coffee products are renowned the world over. This may be due in part to the involvement of the Nestle corporation, which purchased a 50-percent ownership in the Dallmayr coffee division in 1984, in an attempt to get a foothold in the German coffee market. (Nestle reduced its ownership to 25 percent in 2003.) Dallmayr Prodomo coffee, developed around 1960 by Wille, is still available today. Coffee, in fact, was the driving force behind yet another Dallmayr innovation, introduced in the 1960s. When local automobile manufacturer, BMW, purchased USA-made coffee vending machines for its employees, Dallmayr stepped in on the logistical side, delivering the first Dallmayr coffee to the Munich car company on April 1, 1964. Today, the company runs more than 40,000 vending machines throughout Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Eastern Europe. Now in the hands of Wolfgang Wille (son of coffee guru Konrad) and Georg Randlkofer (great-grandson of Anton and Therese), Dallmayr has seen many other developments, besides those in the coffee division. These have included the launch of an exclusive catering service, as well as an online store. In June, 2003, the first branch of the store was opened in Terminal Two of Munich Airport. The restaurant, too, is nearing the end of a facelift, which it is hoped will attract a whole new crowd of gourmands when it reopens this summer. In addition to an elegant, 40-seat restaurant under the charge of chef Diethard Urbanski, the first floor of the Dienerstrasse building will also boast a café and bistro area and provide space for business luncheons. For true gourmet lovers, however, nothing quite matches a stroll around the original premises at Dienerstrasse 14–15, which now has some 300 employees in its employ. From freshly prepared delicatessen dishes, to delectable desserts, fine wines, exquisite chocolate, and even live crayfish swimming in a fountain, the experience is a treat for the senses. Indulge, and you’ll be joining the likes of other famous customers, including many of the world’s royalty and VIPs, all of whom already know—at Alois Dallmayr, what’s tasteful, tastes great. <<<

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