Bernd Brinkmann – a wearer of Birkenstocks for 45 years and a “comeback kid”
“I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks for 45 years. I’m a huge fan! Perhaps you would like to run a story on me some time.” Bernd Brinkmann of Verl wrote to us saying this, and shortly after, we did indeed conduct an interview with him. People hailing from Westphalia are generally considered to be somewhat taciturn. But that’s not the case with Bernd Brinkmann, who turned our interview into an entertaining monologue. We met a man who has been a Birkenstock fan from the get-go – and a person who has demonstrated the ability to make a comeback in life.
A company as a family
Brinkmann begins to chatter: “I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks for 45 years, at all times and everywhere – even at work.” He spent 30 years working in purchasing for the renowned furniture manufacturer Flötotto. The company was much like a family to him, with his father and uncle likewise working there. It was a job that could have comfortably seen him through to retirement. But this was not to be, as Flötotto went into insolvency. The company subsequently managed to get itself back up and running with the help of Brinkmann and other experienced employees. But after a few years, there were unfortunately some differences of opinion between the new owner and Brinkmann, and he was suddenly given his marching orders in 2011.
There’s only one thing to do: keep going
Unemployment? This wasn’t for Brinkmann. Give up? Also not an option. So in 2012, he founded an online shop for furniture together with his cousin. They produce high-quality upcycled designer chairs under the catchy name of EDDI. They pair conventional chair seats with legs made of old bicycle frames, with each chair they make being unique. “This is my kind of thing: high-quality products that last. And value retention – I don’t want to be throwing anything away,” he explains. It’s worth mentioning that Brinkmann is an enthusiastic cyclist and loves perfect bikes. He therefore sets great store by technical perfection and sustainability.
Achieving success with little money
At present, Brinkmann and his four colleagues are barely making a living with the company. “We’re earning enough to cover our expenses, but that’s it. We are realizing it takes a very long time – but this is precisely what spurs me on: achieving success with little money,” says Brinkmann with a sparkle in his eyes. A financial magazine wrote about Brinkmann in 2013, which brought him to the attention of a furniture company. He has now been working for this company since 2015 and intends to launch a new range of furniture in the market. Brinkmann enthuses: “I handle the sales and marketing – I’m a talker, as you can probably tell. Incidentally, I walk around in Birkenstocks there, too.”
Birkenstock and convenience
The mention of Birkenstocks brings us back to where our interview began: “Being kind to my feet while also being able to walk well – that’s what Birkenstocks gave me,” Brinkmann continues. “I wear size 42 shoes and alternate regularly between blue and black. My shoes usually last for two years. And I always wear black socks with my Birkenstocks.” When we throw in the question as to how he ended up wearing Birkenstocks, Brinkmann answers dryly: “Convenience. I hated having to polish my shoes as a kid so I looked around for a solution. And it obviously takes far less time to polish sandals.”
The anecdotes of a sandal wearer
Brinkmann’s love of sandals has never caused him any problems – except for once when a sales rep visited him at Flötotto. Brinkmann thinks back: “He turned up in a fancy suit and a big car, looked me up and down, and asked what I thought I was doing walking around in sandals. To which my boss said: ‘Mr. Brinkmann and his Birkenstocks belong together. If you don’t like it, there’s no need for you to pay us a visit’. I remember it well. And I’ve never seen anybody turn pale quite so quickly.”