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Hamburg – 1885

It was a good time for creative heads, when Heinrich Ad. Berkemann arrived in Hamburg in 1880. Many new businesses were founded here like everywhere in Germany during the Wilhelmine era. As a shoemaker journeyman, he had learned the skills and secrets of his craft with different masters – and 8 July 1885, he registered his own business in the trade office of the Hanseatic city. This is how one of the most successful German business stories started.

His claim to produce not only beautiful but also comfortable and well-fitting shoes quickly spread. And soon, ingenuity joined quality. With the first serially produced orthopaedic insole, Heinrich Ad. Berkemann caused a sensation at the Hamburg shoemakers' trade fair in 1903. His business was thus the first supplier of supporting arch bridges in the world.

The business grew rapidly. The workshop soon became a small business and supplied exhibitions, received prices for various supporting arch bridge models, and acquired the first customers abroad.

From 1911 onwards, Walter Berkemann was trained in his father's business as the first apprentice. Soon afterwards, his younger brother Hans joined the business after having received a commercial education. After the death of their father in 1923, Walter and Hans took over the operation and led the company through the difficult post-war years and the time of the Great Depression.

In spite of all difficulties, the Berkemann company remained an up-and-coming business and starting 1932 even published its own company newspaper, the "Brücke" (the bridge). They moved into a seven-storied office and factory building in Gerhofstraße, above which the BERKEMANN signature shone forth from then on.

Thanks to the successful combination of technical ability and commercial skills, the company was back on a good path even after the end of WWII. Berkemann became part of the German economic miracle of the 1950s! The Original Sandal was the first best seller in company history and marked the advance into new economic and shoe-making dimensions. With the Original Sandal, revenue increases of up to fifty percent were initially generated. The Berkemann sandal appeared on innumerable advertising posters and in hundreds of adverts, and even on television. Swedish princesses and German Olympians, pop stars and other celebrities posed with the sandal.

Beside the Original Sandal, it is the Toeffler that also became a classic. With its thick sole made of light-weight poplar wood, it has been ensuring an optimal foot climate since 1964.

Employees were able to celebrate the 25millionth sold pair of the Berkemann sandal already in 1970. It was the year in which the company built a plant outside of Hamburg for the first time, namely in Steinalben in the Palatinate. Due to the success of the Original Sandal and the Toeffler, additional production facilities were soon being built, among others in Austria and Latin America.

The 1980s introduced computer technology into work life and production also at Berkemann – and  saw the development of the ultimate heavyweight in Berkemann advertising: the Haribo Toeffler! Just as delicious was the second model for success of this unusual advertising cooperation with HARIBO GmbH und Co. KG: the 1.5 kg box of gummy bears, or rather: gummy toefflers.

In 2005, preparations began for the move to Zeulenroda. The new location offered not only a newly built logistics centre guaranteeing more efficient dispatch of the shoes; the employees at Berkemann could now also concentrate on the key areas development, sales and customer care, since the Bauerfeind AG has its headquarters here and unites various divisions under its roof. Thus re-positioned, it was easy to recognise the great brand potential of Berkemann in the area of fashionable comfort shoes and medical health shoes, so the company moved as independent company into its own, new premises in Greizer Straße in October 2007. In the renovated and listed building of the former Römpler hosiery knitting mill, a new chapter started in the history of the once again autonomous company. Thomas Bauerfeind took over the majority management and already placed the focus for the new collection on Berkemann's core competences: tradition, innovation, and highest quality - for an integrated sense of well-being.

However, the stated aim at Berkemann remains unchanged: to continue to retain customer trust in the proven products, open up new markets and offer innovative products, thus leading the German brand with the long tradition successfully through the 21st century.

In 2010, the year in which Berkemann celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation with a big event for customers and over 600 guests in Hamburg, it continued gearing itself for the future. For example, Berkemann invested around 1.3 million euros in the summer of that year in its own PU- sole foaming machine, continuing on its path towards consistent insourcing, the ultimate goal of which is a "one-stop production". This eventful year was concluded with the takeover of the traditional shoemakers from Tuttlingen, Solidus, which will strengthen the strategic and operative market position of Berkemann in the medium term. Both companies will remain with their respective brands at their locations and are counting on synergy effects , e.g. in the field of sole production, joint purchases of basic materials as well as the identification and implementation of further processes that appear sensible for both brands. At the end of 2011, the Comfort-Fashion-Brands MARC Shoes GmbH from Fishbeck in Lower Saxony was also taken over under the same premises and with the same goals. Since then, one also speaks of the Berkemann Group in connection with the three brands.

Bio-Seehotel in Zeulenroda

The 1st Comfort Shoe Symposium in 2012 was launched by Berkemann with the intention of providing the comfort shoe sector with a platform for communication, the exchange of information and experience, and not least for networking. The content, speakers and supporting program of the two-day symposium was aimed at owners, managers and decision-makers from the fields of shoe, orthopedic shoes and qualified medical supplies retailers, industry, as well as the corresponding trade an general media. The Comfort Shoe Symposium is now regarded as an established trade event and is held each year in the Bio-Seehotel in Zeulenroda.