William Jacob “Tiny” Zehnder, Jr

William Jacob “Tiny” Zehnder, Jr

Birth
Death 23 May 2006 (aged 87)
Burial
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Frankenmuth, Saginaw County, Michigan, USA
Plot Sec G Lot 70A-1
Memorial ID 16273930 · View Source
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Restaurateur. He was considered to be the driving force behind the transformation of the community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, into "Michigan's Little Bavaria" which hosts three million visitors annually from around the world. His parents started in the restaurant business when he was 8 years old. In 1927 his parents, traded in their family farm and $5,000 for the boarded-up Exchange Hotel, which they renamed Zehnders Hotel when they reopened it on Mother's Day in 1928. The family then left their small farm house and moved into the hotel. Their eight children supplied the majority of the staff, washing dishes, butchering chickens and waiting tables while their mother did the cooking. Mrs. Zehnder was an excellent cook and soon the restaurant earned a great reputation. In 1941, at age 22, "Tiny" became the General Manager at Zehnders, but was also farming 180 acres. He loved farming and continued to be an active farmer for his entire life. In 1943, he married Dorothy Hecht, who was a waitress at Fischer's Hotel across the street from Zehnders. Fischers was considered the main competition to his family's restaurant. He met Dorothy while picking up garbage from Fischers to feed the hogs raised on his farms. A number of years later, she became the kitchen manager of Fischers, after it was purchased by the Zehnder family in 1950, and she continued until well into her eighties. During the recession years of 1957 and 1958, both of the Zehnder restaurants began losing money. The bankers advised the family to sell one of them to avoid total bankruptcy. Instead, under Tiny's leadership, the family decided to borrow more money to put a Bavarian-style addition onto Fischer's and rename it the "Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn". The grand opening of this Bavarian addition was celebrated in 1959 with authentic German entertainment, bratwurst, beer and pretzels. The event was so successful that it was repeated for several years in the month of June. Eventually, it became the Annual Bavarian Festival, which is currently managed by the city of Frankenmuth. Tiny's vision architecturally transformed his small town of Frankenmuth into an authentic Bavarian Village, and thus promoted the town's German-Bavarian heritage which attracts millions of tourists annually. He spent nearly 50 years of his life assisting and encouraging other Frankenmuth businesses to either build or remodel their stores in the Bavarian style. At the same time he aggressively promoted and advertised Frankenmuth as "Michigan's Little Bavaria". His persistence and patience resulted in success which earned him the title of "Mr. Frankenmuth" among the citizenry of this small Michigan town of 5,000 residents. In 2004, due to poor health, Tiny resigned from active management of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. However, he remained Chairman of the Board of Bavarian Inn, Inc. until his death. The Bavarian Inn Corporation is currently owned and managed by his children and grandchildren.



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Always with Love
  • Added: 21 Oct 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 16273930
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Jacob “Tiny” Zehnder, Jr (6 Apr 1919–23 May 2006), Find A Grave Memorial no. 16273930, citing Saint Lorenz Lutheran Cemetery, Frankenmuth, Saginaw County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .