Hamburg. It's not uncommon to be busy Great Mountain Road in Altona suddenly someone stops and just looks at the store window. A minute, two, three. Colorful tea boxes, coffee in special cans, fine wine, finely packed chocolates, between ceramic bowls from South Africa and clothing bins with carved animal motifs. Wooden masks hang in the background, brightly colored and from Israel. Very different things, colors and shapes, but they have a miracle of inner unity. "Decoration is always a feast for the eyes," the woman says. He then looks away from the display and marches toward the shop door. "Claus Kröger" stands in gold letters on a blue colored Wilhelmina style building. That's all it takes.
It is difficult to name one of the trade-typical categories here. "It's a mix," says Mr Kröger. His name is not Claus but Florian and he runs the company in the fourth generation. Tea, coffee, wine, chocolate – every department could be a store. Delicatessen is probably the best. There are also mustard with apples, coarse salt, Hamburg cereals and selected home accessories.
The buyer once called the specialty goods retailer "Altona's bag". As soon as you enter the showroom, you will be enchanted by the scents of 3000 and a treat. Every inch of shelves are used, on tables and in cabinets. Self? You can be served here. In the long bar, the chocolates are arranged neatly behind the glass, candied fruit from France next to it. If you could see enough, this would be the perfect place to do it.
Florian Kröger grew up in the trade. His great-grandfather Adolf Kröger founded the business in 1924 several houses away. First as a branch of the Elmshorn mill. On top of that he was selling bread and flour, and with that he could grind grain. A few years later, Kröger bought the house number 241, the headquarters of the company to this day. Not only that. The whole family lives upstairs above the store. It was Kroger's Santa Claus who gave the company a name and expanded its product range. "He roasted the coffee himself in the basement until he had to give it up for fire protection," says the 46-year-old, who, as a child, liked to stay in the basement between old appliances and coffee cans.
Kroeger number 3 was his father Michael, who used to mix moussli for eco-built customers in the 1970s, selling organic bread and expanding the tea trade en masse. "He bought crates of tea and could offer it cheaper," the son says. Tearoom is still behind the sales room. Coming from the same Hamburg wholesaler for three generations, Claus Kröger offers 500 different varieties. Selected classics but also many home mixes according to your own recipes. The employee is currently standing on a scale and full of bags: Tut-Gut-Tee, antistress tea and fitness tea. That's totally fine.
"Every generation has brought something new to the store," says Florian Kröger. When he went into business 20 years ago, he expanded his range to home accessories and gift items. Previously, a trained hotel clerk worked in hotels and gastronomy. Was returning to family business an obligation? "It just fit," he says. There is also a store in it.
Times were not easy. Slowly, and then faster and faster, the descent of the Great Mountain Road became noticeable. Even when Karstadt closed a branch opposite the traditional delicatessen, there were almost only cheap stores at the former highest mile. "We were wondering if we should stay," says Florian Kröger. But in fact the decision was clear. "We belong here, Altoni."
Kröger insisted on rebuilding and from the beginning was in a fierce battle for the Ikea settlement for a furniture department store. "Then there were customers who said they wouldn't be able to buy from me," he remembers. In the meantime, this is no longer a problem. The street mix was rearranged without Schickimicki. "Ikea has had a positive effect. Although I would be happy if more smaller stores were opened," says the traditional retailer.
The delicatessen market in Germany is very competitive. More and more supermarkets, some of which are discounted, offer imaginative delicacies and specialties. At the same time, the Germans' appetite for special foods is growing – and they are ready to spend the money on it. New retailers such as Homeland or Oschätzchen have been established in Hamburg offering delicacies from all over Germany. There are also new coffee roasting and chocolate factories.
Kröger looks pretty relaxed up and down the front door of the store. "We have stable numbers. And that always goes a little uphill," he says. More specifically, a businessman doesn't want to look in books. Claus Kröger has many regular customers who can buy their tea in a small shop for years and can't live without the marzipan bread of a Berlin pastry shop. Sawade with the Claus-Kröger inscription, longing for truffles in Provence in the summer, though they know they can only be delivered at less than 20 degrees Celsius.
An important part of the success of the online store, built by the current head of Kröger 15 years ago. "That now accounts for as much as 15 percent of sales." He sends coffee, tea and chocolate all over the country. The wine he chooses among the winemakers in France, Italy and Germany is only available in-store. Meanwhile, the offer includes over 150 varieties.
"Every vacation is a business trip for us," says Florian Kröger, who has run the Kleine Schwester Café in the immediate vicinity of his wife, Meika, for the past five years. The last time they were in Copenhagen, they discovered special puzzles and a new kind of chocolate that they wanted to include in their range. Family and commerce cannot be separated. Not only does the elder Michael Kröger look every day, but Florian's children, both nine and twelve years old, feel at home in this paradise of pleasure. Of course, because there are chocolates there and because – like her father – they like to help. They also tried out new puzzles from Denmark. Now it hangs in the window. Please renew in a few weeks.
Store size: 120 square meters
Address: Große Bergstraße 241, 22767 Hamburg; www.claus-kroeger.de
Foundation year: 1924
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am – 8:30 pm, Saturday 9am – 5pm
Cheapest item: 100 grams of Ceylon tea for € 1.50
The most expensive item: a six liter bottle of Bordeaux Imperial for 895 euros
Trading online is for me … an important part of the business and an opportunity to introduce ourselves.
In ten years … I'm still in the store and I'm curious to see what the next generation will do.
Read the next part of the series next Saturday.