In 1966, Albert Thiemann founded a company "for the purpose of distributing two-wheelers and technical articles". A lot has happened since then. The wholesale of bicycles and spare parts has become an international bicycle manufacturer. Steady growth and specialisation in customised production have made VELO DE VILLE a successful company throughout Germany and Europe. At the same time, the basic values of humanity, uniqueness and diversity have always been preserved and still characterise the company today.
"Success can be measured by business results. For us, success is more than that. The essential achievement of our company is our employees. They are our greatest asset. Their years of loyalty, tremendous team spirit and passion have made VELO DE VILLE the company it is today."
In 1966 automobile motorisation was in full swing. There were already more than 25 bicycle wholesalers operating in and around Münster - not exactly the best conditions for successfully entering the bicycle business. Accordingly, the support for the project was manageable. Nevertheless, Albert Thiemann and Franz Ferlmann took the plunge into self-employment. "The business enterprise shall serve the purpose of distributing two-wheelers and technical articles", says the one page contract.
For seed capital served two private cars, which were exchanged for a delivery van. A small building in Altenberge was rented as a warehouse.
The main focus of the business was the import of bicycles from the Netherlands. By today's standards, these were distributed very locally in and around Münster for retail trade.
THE FIRST GROWTH
At the beginning of the 1970s, the capacities at the location were no longer sufficient due to the growing business. Therefore we invested in a larger building and built a new 1000m2 warehouse in 1972.
The oil crisis and the car-free Sundays in 1973 then caused the first small "bicycle boom". We were sold out for the first time! Favoured by the boom, the building was extended by another 400m2 in 1975.
REPLACING THE CHAIN
Albert Thiemann left the joint enterprise in 1978 and had to start from scratch again. Within a few weeks he founded the company "Albert Thiemann Fahrradgroßhandel". He rented an old warehouse as the company building. Due to the existing contacts to customers and suppliers, he could resume business extremely successfully. Shortly after he had to rent additional storage capacity in neighbouring towns.
FROM DEALER TO MANUFACTURER - THE CUSTOM MADE PRINCIPLE
In 1980 Albert Thiemann decided to purchase a 10.500m2 plot of land on Boschstraße in Altenberge and build a 2.000m2 building, which was then occupied in 1982. He believedat that time that the property would offer enough expansion reserves for the next 50 years. It did not turn out to be 50 years, the location was our home for 33 years. Even more important than the construction of the new building and the foresighted acquisition of the land was the strategic decision, which in retrospect was of decisive importance for the development of the company: the decision to start assembling bicycles.
Since the beginning our focus has been on customised production.
In particular, offering bicycles in different frame heights to fit every body size was a novelty at the time. At the first in-house exhibition, we presented a bike with frame height 45 and one with 70 side by side to show our uniqueness.
Different frame heights, many frame colours, different colours of wheel guards and brake cables were the beginning of our Custom Made principle. Since then, Custom Made has been part of the DNA of our company.
In 1987, the existing building was expanded by 1.000m2. The bicycle retail trade, which had been a mainstay of the company since its foundation, now got its own premises.
In the same year the AT Zweirad Handel GmbH was founded by Albert Thiemann and Edith Beglet-Thiemann with a share capital of 75.000 DM. Edith Beglet-Thiemann took over the business of the company Albert Thiemann Fahrradgroßhandel.
At the end of the 80s, we began purchasing essential components, such as bicycle frames. For this purpose, we worked together with the company Recker from Meckenheim. This company also had its own bicycle assembly, but the sales areas did not overlap. While the Recker company was mainly active south of Bonn, we have expanded our territory since the beginning of the 1980s from Münsterland to the entire northern German region north of Cologne.
THE SECOND GENERATION
In 1992, Volker Thiemann joined AT Zweirad Handels GmbH as a shareholder and managing director through an increase in capital. At the same time, the company was renamed AT Zweirad GmbH.
THE FIRST OWN BICYCLE FRAME
In the mid-90s we developed our first "own" bicycle frame, the "UNA". The first monotube frame on the market, the mother of all city bikes, so to speak. The UNA frame was quickly copied. An the following exhibition IFMA a large competitor also presented a monotube bike - significantly under the name "UNO".
Variety of colours
To increase the flexibility of our customised production, we decided to build our own powder coating system in 1998. For this purpose we expanded our existing buildung by another 1.000m2. It was also possible to supply the friendly companies Recker, Strauch and Kirsch with the freshly painted frames. The powder coating system is the second strategic milestone in the company's history. It also communicated to the outside our change from a wholesale company to a bicycle manufacturer and gave us the opportunity to react very quickly to market changes.
In 2001 the owner of the Recker company retired. In this context, we took over the company's sales activities. This meant that we were active nationwide for the first time. This was another very important milestone in the development of the company.
In the following years, we consistently invested in the expansion of our flexible production.
TAKING THE FAREWELL
10.06.2006 was an unusual day. On this day, the founder Albert Thiemann entered his company at the Boschstraße location for the last time. On 24.06.2006 we had to say a final farewell to him. We owe a lot to his pioneering spirit, his knowledge, his humanity and psychology. We learned from him that the company and the people behind it are the centre of attention. The following generations will also continue to run the company with this spirit.
In 2009 we introduced our first pedelec, the E40, the forerunner of our "CEB 400" series. The following year, we dedicated a separate brochure to the pedelec. Already at that time we offered pedelecs for city, trekking and sport with the series E20, E40 and E80.
Pedelecs were to become a growth driver for our company in the coming years.
THE EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURS
In 2010 we started supplying the neighbouring European countries. The first countries to be supplied were France and Belgium. The development of further export markets was consistently continued in the following years.
At this point it already became clear that further growth at the Boschstraße location was only possible to a very limited extent. Therefore, the decision was made to no longer expand at the existing location, but to construct a new building on a greenfield site. This should further secure the development of the company.
IIn January 2015, the entire company was relocated to a new building at Steinkuhle 2 in Altenberge. The new buildings now cover a total area of approx. 8.800m2. While relocation we invested in a new powder coating line, two new assembly lines, a new line for impeller production and new storage technology.
The first steps in the new environment were a bit bumpy and gave everyone involved sleepless nights. Nevertheless, after a few weeks we overcame the problems and since then optimised our production.
In the meantime, the relocation has turned out to be another important milestone in the company's history.
THE COMPANY TODAY - INVESTING IN THE FUTURE - THE THIRD GENERATION
In 2020 Alain Thiemann, now the third generation, joined the management of the company. He took over the position of managing director and shareholder from Edith Beglet-Thiemann, who moved to the company's advisory board.
We reconstructed a further production building of 5.400m2 as well as the expanded of the office space by approx. 600 m2. The buildings now cover a total size of 14.200m2. At the same time, investments were made in a new production facility to sustainably increase capacities and assembly efficiency. The new building extension will be fully operational in summer 2021 and will be one of the most modern production facilities in Europe.
Our family business has grown continuously in recent years and now employs over 150 people. We are a multicultural company with more than 20 different nationalities, more than 10% of our team are people with disabilities, who are firmly integrated into our daily work and are part of our success. We are deeply convinced that this diversity will determine our way into the future and our success.
Our know-how has enabled us to constantly optimise quality and develop new models, functions and designs. Passion for bicycles and commitment to work are the cornerstones for the continued success of our company.