Last month, Fischer & Wieser celebrated a great milestone in the life of the company. It was 45 years ago that a little roadside peach stand named Das Peach Haus opened its doors for the first time on June 21, 1969. Since that day, the doors have never closed, only a new name was put on the sign: Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods, Inc.In celebrating this great achievement, Fischer & Wieser Chairman of the Board and Founder, Mark Wieser, wrote his reflections of those days when Das Peach Haus first opened. It is a story of inspiration and determination, one of which we are especially proud. We are pleased to share it here with the rest of our extended Fischer & Wieser family. Enjoy!
June 21, 1969
Opening das Peachhaus
Opening day occurred on the same Saturday as the 8th Annual Stonewall Peach Jamboree. I had wanted to enter our Model T in the parade that kicked off the Jamboree so I had asked my mother to open and man the store until I returned. She readily accepted. Since accepting a teaching assignment in Seguin, Texas, in the fall of 1965 I had spent my summers in Fredericksburg. I had planted 400 peach trees on part of the 57 acres on which I had grown up. I cared for them every summer and from a new well I had dug had been able to irrigate them. Now in their 4th leaf I was expecting a small crop that summer to sell in the log cabin that I had finally decided to name das Peachhaus. I also expected to harvest peaches as we had always done from those planted by my father in 1928 and which were now 41 years old, but still producing albeit at an increasing diminishing rate.
That previous evening my mother had helped me pick peaches in an orchard owned by Clarence Stahl. It was located out on the Cave Creek Road not too far from town. Stahl ran a pick your own operation and had advertised such in the Radio Post. Toward evening I loaded what half bushel baskets we had at the time, perhaps no more than a dozen, and a number of newspaper pages for lining each. As usual we were both wore long sleeved shirts with our collars buttoned to prevent peach fuzz reaching our necks or arms. It had always been a losing battle, but embracing peach fuzz without some protection was unthinkable. Peaches in those days were heavily coated with it.
Stahl’s orchard was easily accessible. It was not all that large and his orchard covered at most only about ten acres between the road and his home. He was quite friendly and directed us where we should pick. All that he had ripe at the time were his Golden Jubilees, a slender, yellow-skinned peach encased in much fuzz, of course, and having an almost heart shaped appearance the bottom of which in a noticeable pointed fashion. I had never seen a Golden Jubilee before and it was not at all like the Augberta with which I had grown up. His asking price was four dollars a bushel. I agreed and my mother and I headed off into his orchard. I could not help but notice that he and his family were gathered around his backyard swimming pool. I remember thinking how nice it must be to be able to that and not have to pick the peaches himself.
Within a short time we had filled all of our half bushels, paid Mr. Stahl for seven bushels, and after being reassured that I could come pick more we headed back to town. I am not certain what my mother was thinking, but I know that she enjoyed picking and might have been impressed with how easy picking had been for there were no weeds in his orchard. Until I had learned to drive the 1948 Ford pickup she and I had carried all of our peaches out of the orchard behind our house. It had never been a joyous task. Nor had the orchard J.B. had planted ever been plowed. Every grass burr we approached seemed to cling to our pants, socks, and shoe laces. Needle grass easily penetrated our pant legs to add more injury to our task.
Back at the little store that I had named das Peachhaus, I unloaded my peaches and set them in the backroom which now served as my cooler. Months earlier I had arranged to have a refrigeration unit installed. However, as I came home for the summer at the end of that May it had not been readied. I waited patiently until I finally called to see just when it might be ready. The weeks of my summer vacation were rapidly passing. I had planned to open the log cabin this summer, but now the weeks were passing by and I feared if I waited much longer I would not be able to open at all. I finally made it known that I needed it done now and soon someone came out to install an air conditioner, not by refrigeration unit, but a window unit to use until the unit arrived. It was not what I had wanted, but at least I had the ability to open. The previous day to our picking peaches the job was finally finished and I had the first cooled storage room for peaches. I had felt strongly about having a cooler for the hot summer Texas heat can ripen almost anything. But on that evening I still had no shelving in the cooler and so had to store my first peaches on the floor until I would have a chance to build them myself.
The next morning I instructed my mother how to sell and record all sales. Some years earlier, in 1966 to be exact, Mr. Earl Sweeney from Stonewall had given me his 1/8 bu baskets and his source for more that he had once had a need for when he was selling fruit. Now I filled them with the half bushels of peaches that we had picked the previous evening and readied the display from which my mother could sell. She had brought her newspaper along to while away possibility of boredom. Estella, my mother, had cautiously always seemed supportive of my ideas and dreams. That Saturday morning she revealed no sense of doubt of what I had been planning in fact I thought she appeared quite eager to be helpful. But then it was early and thinking that I had thought of everything that she might require in manning the store and my $28 investment in peaches I set of to drive the Model T down to Stonewall.
The Stonewall Peach Jamboree had been going on for a number of years by 1969. I somewhat resented that Stonewall was winning a reputation for peaches when I knew what role that my father had played in establishing the industry in the county. But nevertheless entering the Model T that I shared with my sister, Jeanette, was an opportunity to show it off. It took me quite a while to reach Stonewall which lay some 16 miles east of Fredericksburg, but all when well and much to my surprise was welcomed as an entry into the parade. I even won a blue ribbon although I cannot remember if it was for the car or the German lederhosen I was wearing. Not being one to mill around much, I took a quick look at the judging going on for the best bushel of peaches, and soon headed back to town.
When I pulled in at das Peachhaus, not a single car was to be seen. It was almost one in the afternoon and the look on my mother’s face said volumes about what she thought that I had gotten myself into. She was on the verge of tears and I knew instantly that she was worried about my investment in the peaches that she had helped me pick that previous evening. “Keine had bis jetzt gestopfed,” or, “No one has stopped yet,” she tearfully explained in Texas German. I was astonished myself. “How could anyone pass up such a beautiful and interesting building as that which I had chosen to house my store?” I thought. Had all my ideas been wrong? But now was not the time to reflect on bad judgments. “OK,” I said, “let’s put some peaches out on the porch.” I could not believe that no one could realize that I was selling peaches. I had made a large A-framed sign with large letters on it. Surly that should have done the trick, but I had been proven wrong. People need more assurances before pulling in.
We moved some half bushels out on the porch and within a short period of time people were beginning to stop. I am certain that my mother was greatly relieved to see them being sold. Soon I was sold out! I had made $92! Not bad for a $28 investment. My mother, too, beamed as she realized the profit I had made. But what now? I had no fruit for Sunday so we loaded the empty baskets into the Ford and went out to pick even more this time. The feeling of turning inventory gave me the confidence that my plans for developing a roadside market might actually work. But for now it meant that my summer was not going to be wasted. My little store was open and if I could find peaches to buy from other growers I was going to make my summer vacation quite worthwhile.