The Martinshof Story - Page 16

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A Philosophy of Happiness - Life Awareness - Memories from Spain

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51. Merry Christmas

Gold  Niessing rings On a pleasant but crisp December morning in 1982 I drove my mother, Mr. Jansen Snr, and Mr Heymans in our red Mercedes to our solicitor Galle in nearby Eefde.
Here we signed the sales contract and waited for the appropriate money transfer from JPC into my mother's bank account. When we walked outside again Mr. Jansen said with a big smile on his face : "Mrs. Furstner, may I offer you a lift home in my car?" She happily consented.

Within hours JPC had also paid off Martinshof's 1,2 million guilders debt at the bank as well as the 300,000 guilders outstanding at our two large creditors Niessing and Or Est. The Martinshof business could finally "breathe" again.

There were smiles all round that day. Our bank manager, Mr. Jansen said to me "Mr. Furstner, I never thought you would survive and I have no idea how you managed to do it, but you did, fantastic!"
Herr Röckenrath too was full of praise "Das haben sie sehr gut gemacht Herr Furstner." he said to me on the phone.
But in hindsight much credit must surely go to JPCs founder, "Joop" Jansen! He knew exactly the situation we were in, but ensured that a fair deal was struck all round. I will always be grateful to him for that.

Monogram pin with diamond, from Diamonde 1982 That afternoon I was on my way back to Australia for a break. I was sitting on a large circular black leather bench in the Schiphol Departure lounge, leaning back with both arms stretched out over its back, and felt that a huge millstone had lifted from around my neck. It was finally all over. My mother's life was assured and all personnel remained safely in their jobs with the new Martinshof. My father, I knew, would be very happy about that, and so of course was I.

My mother and Wivica remained at Martinshof and organised our personnel's Christmas party. Although I was not there myself, I had purchased a present for each of them.
At the Valkenburg show, one of the representatives in the JPC stand was wearing a cute small gold monogram of his initials plus a small diamond on the sleeve of his white shirt. A new product just released by Diamonde.
I loved it and immediately ordered one for each of my staff, as a memento to the hectic 2 years we had stuck together as a family and survived. They all loved it too I believe. I still got mine!

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52. The Furstners depart

Upon my return to Holland in January 1983 I, to my great surprise, discovered that I had no longer any interest at all in the Martinshof business. I had fought a battle of survival and we had survived. With the strong financial backing from JPC now behind us all the risk was gone, and so was my motivation.

Martinshof at the Hoefslag, Gorssel If I ever had had my doubts about my father not selling his business, they were definitely gone right now. We Furstners can not work for others. There is no incentive and we feel constrained in our creative ideas.
Mind you I had a completely free hand under JPC, they were very good with that. But I felt there was no point in continuing to put my own stamp on a business which within a year would be under new management, with a manager who would, and should (!), imprint his own personality on the business.

So I quietly oversaw the routine running of the business and guided the transfer to our new premises at the Hoefslag in Gorssel.   Jansen Snr. had understandably no interest in buying up our house Martinshof. Initially he wanted us to rent business accommodation somewhere, as Jansen did not believe in "investing in bricks and mortar." But in the end he realised that buying the Hoefslag was for the time being the best option.

Platinum rings from Niessing By mid year it was obvious to me that our clients could not care less whether there was a Furstner in charge of Martinshof or not. They must all have breathed a sigh of relief when I sold the business to a reliable financially sound business.
The main purpose of me remaining at Martinshof had therefore evaporated. So I contacted Jan Stil in June or July recommending that we should start looking for a new manager.

This we did, with the result that an energetic new manager Ger van Achteren was installed in August 1983. He immediately took over the rains with great enthusiasm.

Therefore on August 24, 1983 I left Martinshof behind for the last time. A week later I had started in Adelaide at, what proved to become the greatest challenge of my life, becoming a professional musician.

My mother stayed with Martinshof on a casual basis. Because of her Martinshof pension she kept feeling part of the family and van Achteren did a great job in treating her with charm and respect. As my mother lived right opposite the new premises she walked every day across to serve the personnel with her own made soup for lunch. She remained connected in this way until the day she died in 1987.

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53. Martinshof : August 2010

Much has changed over the past 27 years. Manager van Achteren very successfully guided Martinshof through the transition, when the European trade boundaries went down and the partnership with Niessing ended. He added quality watches (Raymond Weil) to the product list, an absolute necessity these modern days. Van Achteren also grew Martinshof to become the most profitable company within the JPC group, a great achievement. He is retired now and resting on his laurels.

Martinshof also changed premises a couple of times. First from the Hoefslag to Twello (near Deventer), then later on to Apeldoorn, where they are now. Yet another move is darkly looming ahead to Zaandam in the West of Holland, possibly next year. Dreaded by the present staff which are all living in or near Gorssel, Zutphen or Apeldoorn.
Martinshof reunion, August 2010
One thing however has not changed at Martinshof : the feeling of family, as I discovered during a reunion of old staff in August 2010, kindly organised by its present manager Yvonne Hafkamp. Diny Ilbrink (sales), Peter Goudswaard (accounting) and Yvonne herself can attest to that, they all have been with the company for well over 25 years. Harry of course, beat them all with 40 years of magnificent service at Martinshof.

The company is doing very well at present and hopefully the staff will have survived when I return, perhaps for another reunion, in the summer of 2012.

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54. A lonely house left behind

Van der Meij's farm and the cherry tree, 1974 It is August 2010. I have invited Gerrit van der Meij my old farmer friend for a dinner at the China Town restaurant. Gerrit and his family have long since left their farm opposite us on the Flierderweg. The nursery 'Quatre Bras' is also gone.
My dear friend Jan Klein-Hesselink died about the same time as my mother, and Cafe Beuse was sold and now is China Town where we are heading. Nothing is as it was anymore.
Gerrit drives through the back roads, then turns right into the Flierderweg. "Look Gerrit" I exclaim, looking to my right "that wild cherry tree of yours, we used to spend all summer afternoons in eating cherries, it has gone!"

We proceed to China Town, have a nice meal together and drive back home via the main road.
Only the next day do I suddenly realise : it had not at all occurred to me to look towards my left at our former home Martinshof!!
Right now, November 2010, while thinking about it again and writing it down, I suddenly start to cry uncontrollably. Every time my mind goes back to it I start again, can't stop it, what the hell is going on??

Else and Jan Furstner, with Granddaughter Babette, summer 1970 The contemporary Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton states in his book The Architecture of Happiness that buildings, especially our home, can make us happy.

So I ask myself : "Is it remotely possible, that happy people living and working in a home, make that home happy too? Make it absorb all the happy vibrations through its bricks and mortar, fill it up and surround it with the spirits and memories of all those who were associated with it. So that it contentedly resonates a soft hum of happiness and joy forever after, but only audible to those who contributed?"

Are the old house and its spirits in need to hum and speak out to someone? And is this why, yes, I start crying again?
Its name, the beautifully hand crafted lettering by Jonkers, has been taken off long ago. Van Achteren purchased it and it still is in possession of Martinshof today.

Else Archibald Maud Eweg Chris Jan

But the spirits and memories of so many from the past still fill the house and its surrounding woods to this very day. My Grandmother with Regien and Nel, Jan and Else and all our family, Eweg and Maud Smit, Guus Jansen and Piet Slegers, Chris Steenbergen and Archibald Dumbar, Tom Jerne, Jan Stil and "Joop" Jansen, and all those who worked there over the years. They still are there. It hurts me because it is all in the past, but still I must not leave that house there on its own, I am a Martin! Next time I will return, visit it, listen to its hum, speak to it, and pay homage to the love and great service it has provided for all of us for so many years ......

When back in Europe in 2012 I visited the house (now called "'t Flier") for a last time. I did not enter it, just touched its white stone outer wall to say goodbye, walked around the overly manicured but well kept garden with my childhood friend Gerrit, then left.

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55. Epilogue (2016)

With Harrie Harberts in Zutphen, 2014 Martinshof, for the last few years based in Apeldoorn, continued to remain a highly respected and profitable company. However its mother company ("Anam" ?, who had taken over JPC some years earlier) was in bad shape.
In an apparent act of desperation (?) it relocated Martinshof to Zaandam within its main headquarters in 2012, dismissing most of the long serving Martinshof employees in the process. A year later the mother company went belly-up.

Harrie Harberts continued working independently from his studio at home and is doing great.
When I spoke to him last (in 2014) he was producing his own design diamond eternity rings exclusively for a very select group of top jewelry houses in the Netherlands.

In 2014 the Siebel group, a large group of jewelers in Europe, purchased the brand name "Martinshof" for their range of exclusive top-line products.   So, after all a worthy end to a magnificent past.

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