Interview with Stephanie Pfeffer-Gerhards - Töpferhof Pfeiffer-Gerhards

Please tell us a little about the history of the pottery Pfeiffer-Gerhards!

Our pottery can look back on more than 100 years of history. Peter Josef Gerhards, the founder of the company, built a workshop behind the former forester's house and the barn at the end of the 1880s. Drawings for a kiln exist from the first years of the 20th century. The first documented entry in the commercial register took place on 1 April 1919 - exactly 100 years ago!
From my great-grandfather the business passed on to my grandfather and at the end of the Second World War to my father and his sister.
After my father had had a serious accident during the dismantling of the Kassel kiln in 1966,
I finished school as quickly as possible and completed an education at the commercial school as well as at the technical school for ceramics in Höhr-Grenzhausen.  Thus in the mid of the 70s I had already to face the question whether to continue this company and I made the decision to accept this challenge together with my husband.


Which products were and are manufactured in the pottery and how has the marketing changed?

In the years after the Second World War until 1967 mainly stoneware bottles with salt glaze were produced. First as water jugs, then as liquor jugs. Around 20 small companies did this in this region, the so-called Euler. The demand for these bottles became then less and less, the large buyers wanted uniform glazes and Pilverproof bottle closures
In 1966, we dismantled the "Kassel kiln" and replaced it by a periodic 4 sqm kiln. In the following years we changed the production to plug-in vessels for flowers, also due to family ties to theWesterwälder Blumentopffabrik Spang here in Ransbach-Baumbach. This conversion and the cooperation with Spang, was a big help during this difficult conversion phase. 
At that time the wholesale trade still existed and they came regularly with their own trucks to the Westerwald and bought ceramics on a grand scale all they could get and they resold it to the retailers. These sales organizations hardly exists any more today.

At the end of the 70's until the middle of the 80's we started, together with 2 other companies from Ransbach-Baumbach, to produce for the company Schubkegel (ASA Selection). Thus, the production shifted steadily in the direction of tableware and decorative ceramics. 
In 1985 we started to sell our own more rustic stoneware series to specialized shops independently via the fairs in Frankfurt, Salzburg, Köln, Hamburg etc. We really got off to a good start with our own products at the beginning of the 90s. We produced fragrance lamps which were trendy and were ordered in large quantities at the fairs. There was a high demand of these products until the end of the 90s. In the upmarket segment, the product is still running today.
In 2010 I decided not to exhibit anymore at the fair in Frankfurt.

Theme changes with subsequent, unfavourable relocations and the constantly rising costs of the fair were out of all proportion. 

This also resulted in a consistent product streamlining in favour of the main customers, which turned out to be very positive. Less is more....

Based on a proper marketing and our well-known quality we work closely together with our most important customers – this includes for example "Manufactum", the "Münchner Hofpfisterei" and "Darboven Eilles". In addition to sales to larger customers, the share of direct marketing via our online shop and the Internet has become well established in recent years.

That means: You keep looking ahead! How will your traditional pottery continue?

I am only looking ahead…I am approaching my 70th birthday and would of course be delighted if I could hand over the business to my daughter in the next few years. But this decision is entirely up to her and her husband – fact is that it is associated with a risk and great personal commitment!
However, if you look back on such a long history and tradition, you have learned that each time entails its own challenges. There is always a way to cope with it!