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
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
The contemporary Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton states in his book The Architecture
of Happiness that buildings, especially our home, can make us happy.
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.
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)
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. Page 1
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.
Copyright © 2016 Michael Furstner