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From a hardware store in Hamburg to the largest yacht chandlery in Europ

Practically no other yacht chandlery in Germany is able to look back on almost 270 years of history. What began in 1745 as a hardware store in the Hamburg Rödingsmarkt is today one of the best-known brands for water sports enthusiasts in the German-speaking world, with 13 branches in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and around 150 employees.

Founder of the company was Johann Daniel Wuppermann, who supplied craft shops, shipwrights and sail makers from his hardware store in Hamburg and operated a smithy at the gates of the city. Originally from near Wuppertal, he had settled in the Hanseatic city. During the era of large cargo sailing fleets, when goods changed ships in the Hanseatic city and countless barges distributed them via canals throughout the city, the business continued to expand. In 1779, Wuppermann's son-in-law became a partner of the company, which was then renamed Wuppermann & Schmilinsky.

 


 

How A.W. NIEMEYER got it´s name

The family business flourished for several generations, until the first half the 19th Century incipient industrialisation required the company to focus on supplying shipyards. At the same time time, AWN also received its current name through a change of ownership: in 1862 the Hamburg merchant Amandus Wilhelm Niemeyer took over the company and re-baptized it with its somewhat awkward name, by contemporary standards: "AW Niemeyer, Wuppermann & Schmilinsky and Sons". In the boom times of the Hanseatic city, when due to the influx of industrial workers the population doubled to 650,000 between 1870 and 1895, AWN came to focus mainly on sailing equipment, and later the emerging steam ships docking in Hamburg harbour. It quickly grew to become the world's most important supplier in Hamburg. To accommodate the rapidly expanding business, from 1908 to 1910 a new, nine-story headquarters was built at Rödingsmarkt, an architectural gem of its time.

 

 

Falling down and getting up again: The war years

In the coming decades, this course was consistently expanded by acquisitions: in 1970 Hamburg rigging and fitting specialist HSB was taken over, a short time afterwards the machine manufacturer Boesch. Nowadays equipment is not only traded, but also produced in-house.
In 1973 there was once again a change of ownership: Hamburg entrepreneur Peter Flammang acquired AWN after the owner took retirement. Flammang, who comes from international business with new ships and repairs, recognised the potential of the budding water sports sector and published the very first Niemeyer mail-order catalog with the simple but ingenious title "The Chandler".
As well as equipment, the company offered all-round technical service for boats, breakdown service or outboard service. In the following years, the catalogue, with around 14,000 items, became an unofficial reference work for countless water sports in Germany. The phrase "If Niemeyer hasn't got it, then it doesn't exist!" made the rounds of bars and winter quarters. The work was a competent guide for sailors and motor boaters at the same time, since it practically covered the entire range of the water sports sector.
In the coming years, expansion continued systematically: in 1998, the first store in Kiel opened after the takeover of the traditional local company Robert G. Ernst. This was followed in 1990 by the first step into Eastern Germany, with the purchase of the "Neptune House of Water Sports" in Berlin, after the fall of the Berlin wall.

 

 

The boom years: Watersports become a mass market

In the coming decades, this course was consistently expanded by acquisitions: in 1970 Hamburg rigging and fitting specialist HSB was taken over, a short time afterwards the machine manufacturer Boesch. Nowadays equipment is not only traded, but also produced in-house.
In 1973 there was once again a change of ownership: Hamburg entrepreneur Peter Flammang acquired AWN after the owner took retirement. Flammang, who comes from international business with new ships and repairs, recognised the potential of the budding water sports sector and published the very first Niemeyer mail-order catalog with the simple but ingenious title "The Chandler".
As well as equipment, the company offered all-round technical service for boats, breakdown service or outboard service. In the following years, the catalogue, with around 14,000 items, became an unofficial reference work for countless water sports in Germany. The phrase "If Niemeyer hasn't got it, then it doesn't exist!" made the rounds of bars and winter quarters. The work was a competent guide for sailors and motor boaters at the same time, since it practically covered the entire range of the water sports sector.
In the coming years, expansion continued systematically: in 1998, the first store in Kiel opened after the takeover of the traditional local company Robert G. Ernst. This was followed in 1990 by the first step into Eastern Germany, with the purchase of the "Neptune House of Water Sports" in Berlin, after the fall of the Berlin wall.

 

In 1992 a new logistics centre opened in Holstenkamp, Hamburg, from which 2000 shipments per day are sent to customers throughout Europe.

In 1999 relocation followed: after more than 250 years at the Rödingsmarkt, A.W. Niemeyer had to move to new premises for reasons of space. Peter Flammang built the new headquarters in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld, where the company is still based. In 2001, the "flagship store" opened there on about 2,500 square meters of floor space to meet modern customer requirements. At the same time, a massive expansion of the branch network began, in order to reach customers nationwide. Services around the boat were significantly expanded: in addition to breakdown services, the AWN range now also includes sail repairs, lifejacket and float maintenance and a Skipper Academy, with qualifications courses and training.

The move is linked to a further change of ownership: Peter Flammang sold AWN to Christoph Kroschke, owner of the Kroschke-Gruppe in Ahrensburg. At the same time, he handed over the managing directorship to Hamburg businessman Michael Ortmüller, who became minority shareholder. Major challenges awaited him, since the market had become more difficult due to emerging high competition and the end of the watersports boom. After a restructuring strategy, consistent expansion of Internet business and a brief regrouping, AWN bounced back.

Once again a phase of growth has begun: new branches are to be opened in rapid succession in Germany, and with locations in Austria and Switzerland the brand has expanded beyond national boundaries. AWN has become the undisputed leader among yacht and boat chandlers.

 

Course set for international waters

The last chapter in the long history of MWI began in 2013. After the retirement of Michael Ortmüller, Christian Hofmann (right) took the helm in September 2013 as managing partner of the traditional chandlery in Hamburg. And the changes at the top are once again to usher in a new era: further internationalisation of the company is to be fomented.