Zum Hauptinhalt springen

KURT AND LILLY ERNSTING

The life story of two reputable traders

OUR COMPANY FOUNDERS

There were many different sides to Kurt Ernsting. He was a father to his family, founder of the company, architecture lover, enthusiastic sportsman and hiker, as well as an avid promoter of cultural and social projects. Lilly Ernsting shared many interests with her husband. She was involved in the company’s fortunes from the very beginning and, as a shareholder, helped to shape its success until her death in 2023. For Lilly too, cultural and social activities were incredibly important. Learn more about the eventful lives of our founders here.

1929

KURT ERNSTING IS BORN

Kurt Ernsting is born on the 6th of November 1929 to textile entrepreneur Hugo Ernsting and doctor’s daughter Hedwig Gockel. He grew up in Coesfeld.

1930

LILLY ERNSTING IS BORN

Lilly Kleier is born in Mesum on the 25th of July 1930 to businessman Bernard Kleier and his wife Anna, née Brink.

1945

LOW POINT

A bombing raid partially destroys the family’s company and home shortly before the end of the Second World War. Kurt Ernsting loses his father Hugo and his sister Margret and is himself injured. He then begins an apprenticeship in agriculture at the age of 15.

1949

A FRESH START

After the end of the war, Kurt’s mother Hedwig continues the textile business with the support of relatives, initially in rented rooms, until the family’s textile store is rebuilt.

1951

A NEW CHAPTER

Kurt Ernsting stops working in agriculture and, influenced by his parents’ business, begins a textile apprenticeship in Wiedenbrück.

1953

SUBSTITUTE AT LEFFERS

The reconstruction of his parents’ textile house continues. Kurt Ernsting (2nd from left in the photo) spends two years working as a substitute at the Leffers brothers in Wilhelmshaven.

1955

WEDDING

Kurt Ernsting marries his long-time fiancée Elisabeth “Lilly” Kleier, whom he met in the winter of 1948/49 while taking the train to the agricultural school in Münster.

1956

NEXT STOP HANOVER

Kurt Ernsting begins a two-year job at Weipert in Hanover.

1956

BIRTH OF THEIR FIRST SON

The family’s first son is born.

1958

MANAGEMENT OF THE TEXTILE HOUSE

Kurt Ernsting takes over the management of his parents’ textile store in Coesfeld.

1958

BIRTH OF THEIR FIRST DAUGHTER

The Ernstings have another new addition to the family. Lilly Ernsting gives birth to the family’s first daughter.

1959

REOPENING

The years of rebuilding are finally over: the new textile store is reopened.

1960

BIRTH OF THEIR SECOND SON

Kurt and Lilly Ernsting’s second son is born.

1963

BIRTH OF THEIR SECOND DAUGHTER

Kurt and Lilly Ernsting’s second daughter is born and completes the family.

1967

A NEW BUSINESS IDEA

Kurt Ernsting has been running his parents’ textile store in Coesfeld for almost ten years, and now he is realising his own business idea: selling up-to-date fashion at low prices. In October, he opens the first “minipreis” test store – at that time still in the laundry room at his parents’ textile store.

1968

FOUNDING OF “MINIPREIS ERNSTING HANDELS-GMBH”

After the successful start of the test store, Kurt Ernsting founds the “minipreis Ernsting Handels-GmbH” chain of stores. The success story of the reputable businessman  and company founder Kurt Ernsting begins.

1971

“TEN IS THE LIMIT”

The company’s founder originally said that “ten stores is the limit”. The seventies prove the opposite. Kurt Ernsting proudly opens his 40th “minipreis” store. In order to meet the constantly growing demand,  construction of an administrative building and a warehouse for the central dispatch department starts in Coesfeld.

1972

“MINILADEN”

Kurt Ernsting leases his parents’ shop and devotes himself fully to his new business, which is renamed “miniladen” after a customer’s suggestion. By the end of the year, 20 more stores are opened and the number of employees rises to 69.

1984

“ERNSTING’S MINILADEN”

A new decade, a new name: “Ernsting’s miniladen” now employs 463 staff members who sell the typical 80s fashion in 200 stores. Not only the stores, but also the distribution centre in Coesfeld-Lette is growing. Designed by star architect Santiago Calatrava, an extension is built that Kurt Ernsting envisages as fitting perfectly into the region and its surroundings.

1989

RUNNING THE NEW YORK MARATHON AT THE AGE OF 60

Kurt Ernsting’s life was defined by exercise and sport. On the 5th of November 1989, one day before his 60th birthday, he runs the New York marathon. The highlight in the enthusiastic runner’s sports career.

1990

REUNIFICATION AND NAME CHANGE TO ERNSTING’S FAMILY

The year of German reunification marks the beginning of a new era. The family spirit that has characterised the textile chain since it was founded is now also reflected in the new name: Ernsting’s family. The first store in the new German federal states opens in Boizenburg.

Kurt Ernsting showed how important the growing together of East and West Germany was to him as early as 1990, when he planted two oak trees on the company grounds in Lette on the 3rd of October, the official day of German unity. One tree for each Germany. The crowns of the two oaks have now grown together.

1992

FOUNDATION OF HERZENSWÜNSCHE E.V.

Ernsting’s family and Herzenswünsche e.V. have been working closely together since the  charitable association was founded in 1992. During our partnership, we have raised several million euros for seriously ill children and young people through donations and our charity collection. These donations have financed countless important convalescence and health treatments and have helped to make young patients’ greatest dreams come true.

1995

TWO FOUNDATIONS

Kurt and Lilly Ernsting establish two charitable foundations, which Lilly Ernsting continues in her husband’s spirit even after his death. One of the foundations is the “Kurt und Lilly Ernsting Stiftung”. The couple founded this with the aim of becoming involved with nationwide projects in the areas of development aid and nature and environmental protection, among other things. For example, the foundation supports the Coesfeld Music School, the German War Graves Commission and the Westphalian Heritage Society. The second foundation is dedicated to the promotion of art and culture in the region around Coesfeld and is named after the former village mayor’s farm “Alter Hof Herding” in Coesfeld-Lette. Since then, the Glass Museum’s collection has been displayed there, exhibiting a selection of glass objects owned by the foundation and new acquisitions as part of regular temporary exhibitions.

 

1999

BIG 70TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

Kurt Ernsting celebrates his 70th birthday with a big party in the company of his employees.

2001

STATE OF NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA ORDER OF MERIT

On the 1st of March 2001, Kurt Ernsting is awarded the State of North Rhine-Westphalia Order of Merit for his extraordinary services.

2006

RETIREMENT FROM MANAGEMENT

Kurt Ernsting retires from the Executive Board at the end of June. However, the company founder remains active in various areas of the company and continues to contribute his decades of experience to new issues.

2007

OPENING OF COESFELD CONCERT THEATRE

Coesfeld’s concert theatre, konzert theater coesfeld, built and operated by Ernsting's real estate & Co. KG, opens. As one of the most modern theatres in Europe, it is a cultural attraction that draws visitors from far beyond the city and national borders. The Ernsting Foundation Alter Hof Herding, founded by Kurt and Lilly Ernsting in 1995, is responsible for the varied programme (culture for the region).

2007

HONORARY CITIZEN OF THE CITY OF COESFELD

On the 23rd of May 2007, the Council of the City of Coesfeld conferrs honorary citizenship of the city on Mr and Mrs Ernsting.

2008

FEDERAL CROSS OF MERIT

On the 14th of April 2008, Federal President Horst Köhler awards the entrepreneurial Ernsting couple the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany – 1st Class.

2010

HIKING MONUMENT FOR THE CITY OF COESFELD

Kurt and Lilly Ernsting gift “their” city of Coesfeld a hiking monument. They had been keen supporters of the Coesfeld Heritage Society’s hiking department, which coordinates the regional marking of hiking trails, for many years through the “Kurt und Lilly Ernsting Stiftung” which was founded in 1995.

2011

KURT ERNSTING DIES

On the 7th of December, Kurt Ernsting passes away peacefully surrounded by his family after a serious illness, at the age of 82. He is survived by his wife Lilly, four children and a textile company with almost 1,600 stores and 10,000 employees.

2018

FOUNDING SPIRIT REMAINS PALPABLE

The spirit of our founder lives on in the company to this day, as seen here at the 50th anniversary celebration at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne in 2018. His values continue to have a decisive influence on all the employees’ actions every day. Kurt Ernsting’s ideas and visions, which he pursued with great ambition but at the same time always with the principles of an reputable businessman, resulted in a textile company that at the time of the company’s 50th anniversary operated around 1,850 stores and employed almost 12,000 people.

2023

LILLY ERNSTING DIES

The co-founder of the Ernsting’s family group, Lilly Ernsting, passes away peacefully surrounded by her family on the 15th of March 2023 after a short illness at the age of 92 years, just like her husband Kurt. The company currently employs around 12,000 people in  1,915 stores.