Raymond Bachmann – Pioneer of his trade

Raymond Bachmann took over the bakery and patisserie on the Wesemlin from his father in 1965. Under his management, the Confiserie Bäckerei Bachmann became a successful company with 19 specialist stores. In 1997 he handed over the management of the business to his sons Matthias and Raphael. Today, he is still an active member of the Executive Board and a valued consultant.

At the time, retail and trade were booming on the Wesemlin. Could you tell us something about the days of the “Wäsmeli” association?
Raymond Bachmann: I founded the association “Mir uf em Wäsmeli” (“Us on the Wäsmeli”) together with the other shop owners in the district. The aim was to make an information leaflet for the district and hold various events. This type of marketing was totally new at the time. For example, we organised breakfast on the Klosterplatz, we hid Easter eggs in the Wesemlin forest, we held competitions, and every business had one page in our brochure to publicise its own events. Basically we were trying to encourage people from the district to shop in the district. I always loved telling the children from the district about how bread was made.

Ten years of being the bakers’ guild master and now an honorary guild master – you weren’t just a leading figure for your own company but for the entire trade. What did holding this office mean to you?
In 1408, the bakers decided to found a guild and in 1874, the members of the guild sold the guild house. The guild was dissolved in 1875. In 1977, the Lucerne association of master bakers and patissiers bought back the guild house from its owners. In 1984, the bakers’ guild was revived by active master bakers to financially support the guild house. When the guild was newly founded in 1984, a guild master was elected as head of the guild. After master baker Otto Wagner and head of the vocational school Damian Schmid, the guild members decided to ask me to be guild master. After due consideration, I decided that I would like to hold this office. For ten years, I tried to inject life into the guild and create the expected financial funds that were needed to support the guild house. It was a pleasant and satisfying task and I experienced many professional and personal highlights and made some interesting contacts. The guild showed its gratitude for my extensive commitment by making me an honorary guild master when I left office. The last duty I carried out in the guild was when, together with my friend Peter Zai and guild secretary Annemarie Stocker, I spent a lot of time giving the guild book a new design. The book can be purchased in the Restaurant Pfistern or from the “Zunft zu Pfistern” guild.

To commemorate the fire on Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) you launched special boxes of chocolates – this was something that was talked about all over Switzerland. How did you come up with the idea?
In 1993, most of Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) burned down. Naturally there was a huge media response to the loss of Europe’s oldest covered bridge. After all, this sightseeing attraction was and still is known all over the world. Most of the 158 interior gable paintings were lost to the fire. The famous Lucerne artist Alexander Scartazzini offered to paint the 159th Chapel Bridge painting, which I was then allowed to use as a template for a box of special chocolates in the same triangular form as the pictures themselves. The box was a great hit and sold very well as a memento.

You had great success with the Europe gateau. Could you tell us the story behind that please?
I had a lot of contact with various well-known confiseurs. The subject of a united Europe moved me to create a Europe gateau. One of the ingredients in my recipe was the popular Cointreau. The recipe was sent to patissiers all over Europe and the company Cointreau organised an exhibition with a competition in many towns. In each case, a Europe gateau had to be made. With support from Cointreau, I organised an exhibition for Switzerland in Lucerne in what was then the Lucerne Kunsthaus. It was a great success. The winners got to spend a week in our company.

Why was the bakery moved from the Wesemlin to Werkhofstrasse (now Tribschenstadt)?
In 1980, a number of employees came to me to talk about the lack of space in the bakery. At that time we already had seven specialist stores (Rössligasse, “Gotthardhus”, Emmen, Wesemlin, Hofkirche, Monopol, au Coeur fou). We had confiserie production and the storeroom in the next building. We had to cross the road with the finished pralines, which led to a few tricky, even dangerous situations. I asked the council whether there were any premises I could rent or whether there was any building land for sale. Just two weeks later I was given an appointment by the then head of finances and president of the town pension fund, Armand Wyrsch, to view premises of 3,000 m2 at Werkhofstrasse 20. The premises had been built in advance by the pension fund for the planned university. But these rooms were in fact not being used, as a referendum in 1978 had put paid to the plans. I had a look at the premises in 1979 together with my father Hans Bachmann and was quite taken with the two 1,500 m2 facilities. Particularly the practical location close to the station and the good access roads ultimately clinched it. On Saturday 30 August 1980 we moved the bakery. On that Saturday, we baked until 10 a.m. in the old bakery. Then we moved all the machines over the weekend so that we could start work promptly at 2 a.m. on Monday, 1 September 1980 in the new bakery at Werkhofstrasse 20. Unfortunately my father never saw the move, as he died in January 1980.

In our very first year, some of the employees wanted to move back to the old bakery; they found the new premises much too big and the distances they had to cover in production too long. But the positive development of the company meant the new premises were soon full and specialists from all over Europe came to visit the bakery.

You have even delivered pralines to America – no doubt there are some exciting stories about that.
We came into contact with the upmarket department store chain “Neiman Marcus” in America through a broker, Marcel Köpfli. In 1985, we had a contract to deliver eight tonnes of pralines a year. For the launch and to raise awareness of our brand I travelled to America for two weeks and covered the pralines myself by hand, then distributing them to the customers so they could try them. I often had a queue of 50 people waiting to try a fresh praline. In San Diego, there were customers who had heard of Lucerne and even our company. In San Francisco, “Neiman Marcus” had opened a new branch on Union Square. On the very first day, 60,000 customers came to see the new store. The number of people inside had to be regulated, with people only being allowed in when a sufficient number had actually left the premises. Four beefy doormen in uniform kept things under control at the entrances.

Two years later, we received a message from Dallas saying that a consignment of two tonnes of pralines had melted because Lufthansa no longer had cooling facilities. We had to replace the goods within two weeks. That was too much for our small workshop. This meant we did not have enough goods in our own stores. We decided to stop delivering and instead concentrate on our own stores.

You even got an entire astronaut crew from NASA to write their autographs with glaze spray. How on earth did you manage that?
Astronaut Claude Nicollier was due to visit the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne with the NASA crew. The then tourist director Kurt H. Illi came to me and asked me to do something a little different for these very special visitors. We mounted a chocolate spaceship on the Spreuer Bridge and we asked the famous astronaut to sign it with chocolate. We gave him smaller chocolate rockets to take back home with him for his friends and family as a memento.

You have always put considerable effort into making extraordinary things possible. Such as the biggest birthday cake in the world for the Emmen Shopping Center. You even made it into the Guinness Book of Records with the cake. How did that happen?
We were tenants in the Emmen Shopping Center with a store and cafe. The director Josef Esterhazy said he would like nothing better than to have a massive birthday cake for the centre’s tenth birthday in 1986. And we made him an 18-tier cake that stretched over all three floors. The cake was made during opening hours in the centre with customers looking on. The tiers were lifted onto the cake one by one by two forklift trucks. The next day, the cake was shared out among 12,000 visitors. Our record for the Guinness Book of Records was confirmed.

One year later, the centre management wanted a gingerbread house for Christmas. And the centre’s Santa Claus was to be able to welcome children into the gingerbread house. That project required precise planning with a wooden substructure we could cover with gingerbread. The gingerbread house was eight metres tall and it had to be ensured that the gingerbread that was given to the children was still edible. The whole thing was checked and confirmed by lawyers so that we could be sure of getting into the Guinness Book of Records.

Your specialist store “au Coeur fou” was also well known far beyond the city limits. How did you have the idea and what was the motivation behind having such a shop?
Pralines and chocolate specialities have always been popular gifts. In our chocolate boutique “au Coeur fou”, we had a very exclusive range of different gifts which naturally were always combined with our very own exquisite chocolate specialities. In a workshop specially created for the purpose, we designed very elaborate packaging and window decorations always tailored to the particular season. These too were well known far beyond the city limits. In “au Coeur fou”, we were able to let our creativity run wild.

The change of generation, which can sometimes be a little difficult, does not seem to have caused you any great problems. How would you describe this time yourself?
My wife and I never found this change of management in the business a problem. It was only natural for us that changes should come and that our sons would bring new ideas and experience to the business. We have been able to follow the positive development every day and have also been able to contribute our experience. From year to year we felt the influence of our sons increase and they gradually became more and more accepted by the employees. It is wonderful to be able to see a takeover unfold so positively and harmoniously.

Was it always a given in your family or, to put it another way, did you expect your sons to take over the business?
We let our sons choose their own career path and would have supported them had they chosen a different profession. If you are self-employed you really have to love your job and be absolutely convinced of what you are doing otherwise you will rarely have any success. It was clear to Raphael in particular at a young age that he wanted to become a baker/patissier. Matthias took a little longer over his decision but was then absolutely convinced when he ultimately decided to take up the profession. Naturally we are very happy that both our sons chose our profession and that they continue to run our business successfully whilst enjoying every minute of it.

Where did you get all your new ideas from?
The inspiration for new ideas always came spontaneously through contacts or events. Say a female Swiss skier got a gold medal, we would spontaneously make a golden girl thaler. And of course our loyal customers also gave us new ideas.

How many apprentices did you train in your career as a master confiseur?
In the 35 years that I was in the business, it was around 180 apprentices.

“We owe everything to them!”

Raphael Bachmann on his parents
“During my apprenticeship and my travels, I developed considerable expertise and gathered important life experience. But the love of the profession, the desire to repeatedly make the impossible possible and the capability to communicate with people, to respect and encourage them – all these things I learned from my parents. We owe everything to them!”

Matthias Bachmann on his parents
“My parents were in contact with specialists all over the world, from Belgium to Spain, and from Japan to America. They are positive, very open people and are always looking for ideas and ways to improve things. When we went on holiday with the family, we didn’t only look at the famous sights of a particular country, but also at the best patisseries. Effectively my brother and I were involved in the business and the trade from being in the cradle. My parents always had a vision and good employees at their side.”