Denner AG

Denner, revenues $869 million, operates a discount supermarket chain throughout Switzerland. These no-frills stores usually carry less than 500 products unlike a normal supermarket that might have 10,000. It reminds me of Aldi, the huge German supermarket operator that was the trendsetter to this type of operation. Denner's distinctive red stores for example, might carry butter but if you don't like the brand then you're out of luck because it's your only choice.

The six-story, 1970's building stands several miles from Zurich's downtown. Receptionist Frau G. Kaufmann mans the desk in the spartanly furnished reception area and speaks nary a word of English. I speak nary a word of German. Since information was scarce on this privately held firm my letter of introduction (sent a month earlier) was addressed simply to "Chief Executive Officer".

The receptionist makes a call and a few minutes later this woman steps out of the elevator. She says she works for another company located in the building but came down because she speaks English. I explain what I do and she in turn relays it to the receptionist. A few minutes later another woman appears and I explain to her what I do. Her name is Ms. Ruber and she suggests I contact a Ms. Kusim. Ruber makes a big point of telling me not to show up without first making an appointment.

As I'm leaving I ask about the bronze bust of a man near the elevator. It's Founder Karl Schweri, who died last year at the age of 85.

Time constraints stop me from attempting a second visit to Denner.