Max Felchlin AG
It's nice being back in Schwyz, a picturesque town/canton of
about 7,000 inhabitants. In the USA we have states, in Switzerland
they have cantons. Schwyz is one of the country's smallest cantons.
I cycled through here a few years ago visiting Victorinox, the
Swiss army knife maker, and have never forgotten the beauty of
this valley and its spectacular mountain scenery.
Several times I stop and ask locals how to get to chocolate maker
Max Felchlin's offices. They don't speak English but see the
name and address on my questionnaire. I end up at the factory
on the edge of town instead of the head office near the city
center. It's an honest mistake as the large factory building
sits alongside a main road leading into town and is a visible
landmark to the locals.
A side-street in a residential area dead-ends at a very large
house. Built in 1924, this three-story mansion was formerly founder
Max Felchlin's home. Now, it's company headquarters for this
producer of chocolate to bakeries, catering enterprise and industrial
users. Revenues last year were 30 million Swiss Francs (about
$22 million) with half coming from exports to the USA.
On the nearby main road was a small sign directing visitors to
this place but, there was also a sign for a sculpture garden.
Walking around the mansion to the front grounds of the property
I come upon more than a dozen sculptures scattered about the
Entering the mansion I find no reception area. I spot a man working
in a room and tell him I'm looking for General Manager Christian
Aschwanden (that's who I sent my letter of introduction to a
month earlier). It turns out he is Aschwanden and has my letter
sitting on his desk.
A good time is had thanks to the hospitable Aschwanden. Twenty-five
people work here. Parking is plentiful, smoking in the workplace
isn't allowed, there's no formal dress code and it's a 10-minute
walk to the city center. There're no recreational facilities
though you could get your exercise from going up and down
the stairs (no elevator--in Europe it's no big deal but in the
USA the law would require one). There's no cafeteria but a break
room (microwave) and even an outdoor BBQ set-up. One can eat
lunch on an outside terrace or at tables set out near the sculpture
garden with its great view of the surrounding valley. It's three
minutes to the nearest freeway and an hour's drive to Zurich's
Why does Aschwanden have his office near the front door? Is it
to keep tabs on the comings and goings of employees? Nope, it
was formerly the office of the CEO before him (that would be
the son of founder Max Felchlin). The company's roots go back
to 1908. I count two real plants in Aschwanden's corner office
along with a family picture. This is a first for me; a white
bird cage with fake birds inside hangs from the ceilingit's
from Aschwanden's predecessor. The room next to Aschwanden's
office used to be the mansion's formal dining room, now it doubles
as a meeting room and boardroom----complete with large working
fireplace. I mention having been in three boardrooms where there's
a crystal ball in the middle of the table. Aschwanden shows me
a wood face mask carving watching over the table and says it's
called Haetti, God of the Budget.
Before heading off I'm given a large, heavy (must weigh a couple
pounds) slab of milk chocolate cleverly packaged and boxed to
resemble a suitcase stamped with various famous destinations
around the world. Company website: www.felchlin.com