The Martinshof Story - Page 15

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49. The Valkenburg debacle

Valkenburg Casino While still in the middle of negotiations with JPC I received a phone call from the office of the Dutch "Federation of Gold & Silver". They were planning a great Jewelry show in the Casino of the attractive Southern Dutch holiday village of Valkenburg over a long weekend in September (1982). Was I interested in participating in the show with Martinshof ?
All my competitors (Desiree, Anjer, AS and Flamingo) were also in it. So I thought "Why not?"
I was at this stage reasonably sure we would get a satisfactory outcome with JPC, so I felt I could loosen our purse strings a little.

So I went to Valkenburg for a meeting with the organisers, hired a double size stand and discussed with the stand builders what I wanted to be done. Afterwards I also found a lovely holiday cottage, surrounded by trees, at the outskirt of the village which I rented for the planned show weekend.
For of course I had this great idea for the occasion. I sent a letter to each of our jeweler customers in the province (about a dozen in Limburg) inviting them to come to the show and also to a cocktail party at "Klein Martinshof" on the Saturday afternoon to meet some of the Martinshof staff personally. I included 2 entry tickets for the show.

The show itself was a great success. A good friend of mine, Reinier Verschoor, transported everything we needed for our stand (including lots of Martinskeller wine of course) to Valkenburg in a hired VW van. I had made a roster so that every body from our company could visit the show (all travel expenses paid by Martinshof).
Besides our product display and a slide show of Niessing jewelry, we set up our engraving machine and throughout the three days engraved rings for free. This attracted large crowds and was a huge success. Reinier, Henny, Harrie and I were on a roster so that we could engrave rings throughout the three days non stop.
For these few days the fierce rivalry between competitors was also suspended and I remember the Anjer representatives proudly showing me the latest models of their wedding ring collection. When no-one saw us the Desiree people (in the stand besides us) exchanged nods, winks and knowing smiles with me. It was really nice.

With the  late shirley Pink, May 2007 Saturday afternoon arrived. Shirley Pink a lady friend visiting from Australia, had done her best to prepare a great range of savouries and finger food for the reception and at 5PM we were all sitting in the main room of "Klein Martinshof" (the rented cottage) waiting for our customer guests.
On my way there one of the jewelers invited, who also had a stand at the show, apologised to me that he could not be present as he understandably had to remain at his own stand during this busy period.

So we sat there, waited and waited, but nobody arrived! I had forbidden my staff to touch any of the food, so that its display would not be spoiled, but by 7PM I had had enough. "OK" I said, "Nobody is coming, so lets go and have a nice dinner." This we did in a lovely restaurant nearby.

Afterwards I went back to the Casino. "How was your cocktail party?" someone asked immediately when I arrived. "Not a single person showed up!" I instantly replied, always finding it best to stick to the truth.
But it also inspired me. I immediately went around every stand on the show and told them the story. "So" I said "I have a car load full of Martinskeller wine on my hands, and I am not going to take that back home. You are all invited to a grand party at the Martinshof stand after the show closes tomorrow night at 10!"

White gold Niessing rings And what a party it was. The stand was tjokke block full people drinking, eating, fierce competitors walking around arm in arm, we were all one happy family.
"Martinshof is upsetting the entire schedule here tonight. You must end your party immediately!" blared the Security over the intercom, but none of us took any notice as there was still plenty of wine left.

Finally around midnight the police arrived. They had spotted several notorious underworld heavies from Amsterdam around the Casino grounds and felt sure they intended to ambush some of the jewellers coming out with their suitcases of wares (jewelry, diamonds) some worth millions of dollars.

So this is how the party finally ended. Groups of 2s and 3s were one after the other walked back to their cars under heavy police escort and safely sent on their way, until all party guests had departed. Is there any better way to end a party ? I don't think so!!

The next day the story was all over the Dutch jewelry world of course. A week or so later, when I drove with Jansen Snr. in the car on our way to Germany, Jansen, who of course had heard the story, wanted to hear it once more out of my own mouth. So I told him. We both laughed our heads off, then he said "Mr. Furstner, the best part of this story I find is you! You can tell this story, which surely is a huge flop, and heartily laugh about it yourself. That I find really wonderful!"

But there was no egg on my face of course. I had turned the initial debacle around to my advantage. It instantly brought Martinshof again to the full attention of the whole Dutch jewelry industry, with a clear and simple message :
"We are alive and kicking boys, and totally different to any other company around!" I am sure Jansen realised that too, he knew what he was buying.

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50. Aber Herr Furstner, da haben sie doch recht!

Immediately after my conditional agreement with JPC I went to Vreden to explain the situation to Niessing. The Director Herr Exner Jnr. was present, together with Herr Röckenrath, their senior and most experienced man after Exner Snr's recent death, and (if I remember correctly) also their ultra conservative and rather pessimistic solicitor.
All three listened in silence to my explanation, but were not impressed. They were convinced that JPC wanted to buy Martinshof for ulterior motives. Once they were in charge, Niessing believed, JPC would get rid of all Niessing stock held by Dutch jewelers, replace it with their own and Niessing would no longer have any foothold in Holland.

Platinum and gold Niessing rings In hind sight this was perhaps not so preposterous a thought as I felt at the time. The jewelry in Germany was both in quality and creative style generally way above what was (and I believe still is) on offer in countries like France and Holland, not even to speak of the English!!
So they really did not quite realise how very good they were themselves. "Dan zeigen sie uns bitte einige von diese JPC Ringen." was their final position.

I went back home and phoned Jan Stil. Yes, he was quite happy to give me some Desiree rings to show them.
So I arranged another meeting, a lunch with Herr Röckenrath in a German restaurant just across the border.
We arrived and sat opposite each other in a small booth. I put my right hand in the inside breast pocket of my jacket, took out the folded white paper package, reached over the table and placed it before Röckenrath on the table.
He slowly opened the package, exposing two Desiree rings.

"Aber Herr Furstner," he exclaimed "da haben Sie doch recht! He looked once more at the two rings in his hand, then back at me. "Das kan man sich ja doch überhaupt nicht vorstellen!"
Problem solved! The Germans were in!

Platinum Niessing rings Jan Stil managed a wry smile when I told him Röckenrath's reaction, but he was happy that Niessing now was onside.
So another meeting was arranged where I would introduce the two new partners to each other.

Again we met for lunch in a German restaurant. There were Jansen Snr., Stil, Heymans (another JPC Director) and I from the Dutch side, and Exner Jnr., Röckenrath and their solicitor from Niessing.
Jansen Snr. was in great form and explained what JPC was all about and the plans they had for Martinshof and Niessing, in the process boasting about the large quantity of bare gold he had "lying to rot in his cellars". The Germans were most impressed.

At one moment, during a short break in the proceedings, I found myself alone with Exner Jnr. at the table. He bent across the table over to me and whispered :
"Herr Furstner, dies ist ja doch genau wie Dallas!"     "Ja Herr Exner" I replied "so tun wir das in Holland!"

'Dallas' was a popular American TV series in the 1980s, set in Texas.


Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner