The Story of Ehlbeck & Cordes

Manfred Ehlbeck attended the elementary school in Hamburg - Groß Flottbek and Günter Cordes the elementary school in Hamburg - Bahrenfeld. Due to school matters the classes 5A and 5B were pooled after some time. This is how the first contacts between Manfred Ehlbeck and Günter Cordes in their early years emerged.
In order to support the unity of the classes A and B the teachers organised a cheerful morning with the help of the students that were born in 1930/31.
This morning for example special exercises, magical tricks and background music, which was performed by Manfred playing the accordion and Günter playing the piano, were offered. While practicing for their musical performance the two became friends as 10 year old boys. In order to keep the boys motivated during the practice for their performance their mothers supported them with some kind of sweets that still were available during the war.
In the year 1947 this “ musical cooperation” was expanded when the young girls from the girls’ middle school in Hamburg - Altona needed male suppport for their dancing parties.

The longterm friendship between Manfred and Günter was intensified. But the start of their apprenticeships as a farmer (Manfred) and a bricklayer (Günter) seperated them for a few years. In 1953 they coincidentally met in a train and the old relationship was restored and strengthened. Both of them were meanwhile busy becoming merchants. Manfred in the coffee business and Günter in the timber business. Manfred was able to bring in Günter in the same preparation seminar for their final exam as foreign trademen. The requirement of the commercial chamber was that Günter finished his two year´s appretenceship with grade 1 or 2 otherwise he would have had to do it for three years. It worked out – both passed their exams. In 1955 Manfred worked in a coffee importing company and Günter as an authorized representative in the timber importing company Hans W. Rütze.

At the same time Manfred and Günter started doing their own corporated businesses as the monthly salary was very, very poor. When cutting impregnated railway shafts on Günter´s grandsfather´s property the two had the idea of starting their own trading company.

Both were of the opinion that they did not earn enough money to support a family. Under Manfred Ehlbeck´s name they started a roast coffee trade. Manfred´s room in his parent´s house was the office and warehouse. Until late at night they sorted “Fegsel” (these are the beans that tipped out of the torn off coffee bags). The coffee was sold to friends or to small traders. They spent a lot of nights discussing and then tried to leave the room extremely silent in order to not disturb Manfred´s parents that were sleeping downstairs. Unfortunately one night Günter Cordes fell on the spiral staircase with a lot of noise as Karl Ehlbeck (Manfred’s father) had layed the carpet not very well. Karl Ehlbeck instructed them to leave the rooms quietly in the future.

Extremely carefully they left the room weeks later and Günter sneaked down the stairs pressed against the wall. Unfortunately he had forgotten the gong with seven bells which started moving with a lot of noise. The laughter was even louder than the bell so that the senior couple woke up again.

This negative nightly disorder and some chance for international business made Manfred and Günter found and register the company Ehlbeck & Cordes as a trade business with very limited finance.on January 1st, 1957.

At first the company only had a post office box. Quickly it grew to a 40 qm office in the free port followed by moving to the business premises in Hamburg-Groß Flottbek that were used until 1974.

Manfred Ehlbeck and Guenther Cordes before company foundation 1956
Manfred Ehlbeck and Guenther Cordes before company foundation 1956
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