It Started with a Music Box
A music box that the founding couple Wilhelm and Käthe Wohlfahrt brought from their Saxonian homeland to Stuttgart laid the foundation for the company Käthe Wohlfahrt. The music box exercised a particular fascination for an American officer’s family, who were friends of the Wohlfahrt family and visited them for Christmas celebrations in 1963.
Wilhelm Wohlfahrt thought to himself that such a music box would be exactly the right present for his American friends and straight after Christmas went looking for another example. But all the shops had already put their Christmas goods back into storage and it was in February of the following year that he found a wholesaler who was still selling music boxes. But Wilhelm Wohlfahrt had to buy at least ten of them, because otherwise the wholesaler did not want to supply him. Nevertheless, he decided to buy, and gave a music box to his American friends, who were extremely happy about this post-Christmas present. Upon their advice, Wilhelm Wohlfahrt went from house to house in the American barracks to sell the other nine music boxes. He was successful at first until the military police took him into custody, because door-to-door selling was not allowed. But the military policemen also liked the music boxes and they recommended him to sell them to the American officers’ wives at the charity bazaars. From then on, Wilhelm and Käthe were at every weekend bazaar, with a gradually expanding range, and finally dared to make the leap into independence in 1964.
From Stuttgart to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Because Wilhelm Wohlfahrt was at that time still employed by a well-known computer manufacturer, his wife Käthe Wohlfahrt gave her name to the new company. Business was going well and soon Wilhelm and Käthe Wohlfahrt were able to welcome the first customers to their own showrooms in Herrenberg near Stuttgart.
They then moved to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a milestone in the company’s history. Here, on Herrngasse in 1977, the first specialist shop for Christmas items opened – Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christkindlmarkt. And, of course, the extensive range of Christmas music boxes from the Erzgebirge also included a successor model of the Nativity music box that Wilhelm Wohlfahrt had given to his American friends.
Since then, Käthe Wohlfahrt has opened more Christmas shops, including the world-renowned Christmas Village in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The town became the location of the company’s headquarters.
Since 1991 the company has been developing its own product lines under the name Rothenburger Weihnachtswerkstatt. The particular expertise of the company Käthe Wohlfahrt in the area of Christmas tradition has also been reflected, since 2001, in the Christmas Museum affiliated with the Christmas Village. Here, interested visitors from all over the world can see a scientifically well-founded presentation of the history of the German Christmas.
Family Company in the Second Generation
Wilhelm Wohlfahrt died on 5th May 2001 at the age of 72. His family and employees, and also the friends and loyal customers of the company Käthe Wohlfahrt, will treasure his memory.
To date the family company has been managed by Harald Wohlfahrt, the son of the founding couple. The Wohlfahrt family and the employees of the company look forward to celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary in 2014. With combined efforts and the support of friends and customers from all over the world, they will be making sure that the melody of the music box continues to ring out.
Wilhelm Wohlfahrt selling his Christmas dekoration on one of the charity bazaars
This ist the music box, with which it started all on Christmas 1963
Christkindlmarkt in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the first Käthe Wohlfahrt store in the city
Opening of the Christmas Village in 1981