About Ernst Felix
Ernst Felix was the president of Heinrich Boker Baumwerks in Solingen Germany from 1974 until around 2006. He has since retired, and turned the reigns of the company over to his children, Carsten and Kirsten. For three decades, Ernst Felix was the face and heartbeat of the Boker company in Solingen, and around the globe.
His father, whose family name was Dalichau, was killed during World War II. His mother moved from Frankfort to Solingen after the war, where she married a man named Felix, who ran a small cutlery operation in Solingen.
Ernst Felix graduated from Darmstadt University, earning advanced degrees in industrial engineering and business management. He began working with his stepfather in the knife business in 1969. Thereafter, they purchased August Mueller cutlery and began manufacturing pocketknives.
Felix had contacts with the Browning corporation in the United States, and his company made knives for the Browning trademark when that company wanted to enter into the cutlery market. The first Browning knives in the American market in the early 1970s were in fact pocketknife patterns designed by Ernst Felix.
The Solingen cutlery manufacturing facility bearing the Boker name had been a family-run business since the beginning. How did Ernst Felix, with no ties to the Boker family, become president of the company? Felix credits a bottle of scotch. In 1974, while traveling with a group of German cutlery industry members to Japan, Felix won a bottle of scotch from a hotel in Osaka, Japan. He relates this story:
“By chance, I shared this bottle with another member of our group of visiting cutlery industry people. He had been with Boker for the last 40 years. The Scotch loosened our tongues and during our conversation, I learned a lot of interesting details about this company. Just two weeks later, I decided I wanted a new job, remembered the night and the bottle of scotch in Osaka, and knocked on Boker’s door – successfully.”
From that beginning, Ernst Felix stood at the helm of the company famous for its TREEBRAND knives during many highs and lows. He worked through the difficult times in the early 1980s, when the BOKER brand in the United States was very low. 1984 saw the end of BOKER USA knife production. In 1986 Ernst Felix was able to negotiate the purchase of the TREE BRAND trademark back from the Cooper Tool Group who owned it at the time. The trademark had been the property of the U.S. Boker branch since World War II, and now after over forty years, this almost sacred trademark was returned to the place of its inception. Felix rebuilt the reputation of quality that had been evident in Boker knives for hundreds of years.
He also lived through exciting political times. In 1989, when asked if he thought his divided country would ever become one again, his response was, “Yes, I am sure of it, but I won’t see it in my lifetime.” Just a short few months later, he was able to witness the reunification of his country. The Berlin Wall came down.
“I remember the unbelievable scenes on television showing East and West Berliners dancing and embracing on the wall – that ugly obstacle dividing a city, a country, the world.”
Felix had more cause to celebrate in 1994, as the Heinrich Boker company celebrated its
125-year anniversary. On this occasion he planted a new chestnut tree at the factory, as the original European chestnut tree had been destroyed by lightning in 1925. On an
interesting side-note, the Boker headquarters in Colorado and Argentina both now have their own version of the famous TREE BRAND chestnut tree planted at their respective facilities.
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To read more about Ernst Felix, and the history of the world famous Tree Brand knives, buy a copy of BOKER: TWO CENTURIES AND TWO COUNTRIES REPRESENTING ONE NAME IN CUTLERY EXCELLENCE, by Neal Punchard and Ricky Ray