Around 1861, German immigrant August Heimerdinger opened a family-operated cutlery business in downtown Louisville on 110 Jefferson St. Five generations later, Heimerdinger Cutlery Company is thriving in the heart of St. Matthews, recently celebrating it 150th anniversary. We sat down with current company President Carl Heimerdinger, the great-great grandson of August, to learn about the history of the family business and the secret to its long-lasting success.
Tell us a little about the last 150 years.
My great-great grandfather who founded the business was a sewing machine repairman and cutler. After he had been in business for several years, he started making sewing scissors and butcher knives and carried a lot of products for the butcher industry. When my grandfather took over the business, we started making garden tools – pruning shears, grass shears, hedge shears and mule shears – things you maybe don’t need as often these days. Since the late ’60s we have specialized in the cutlery industry. It’s kind of an old-fashioned term, but it spans a large gamut from kitchen knives, pocketknives, to scissors of all types. We carry a few barber supplies. We also do sharpening of cutlery items.
How long have you been working at the family business?
I’ve been around since I could barely see over the showcase. One of the sales clerks used to slip me a quarter to clean the glass on the showcase. When I was younger, we were in a very large building and it had three stories and a basement. As a young boy that was perfect for exploring, but I still didn’t get to see everything.
What sets your cutlery business apart from others?
We train the employees to be knowledgeable about the product – how it’s made, why this knife is better than that knife, techniques and how to use the knife. We carry only quality products, and quality doesn’t always necessarily mean the highest price. Sometimes it is a significant investment, but a well-made knife should more than last your lifetime.
What are your most popular products?
One of our most active departments is men’s shaving. The scissors are still a big part of our business too. It’s a close race between scissors and Swiss Army knives. At different times of the year, it’s different things. Our fall season seems to be our kitchen cutlery season. We sell quite a few Swiss Army pocketknives for Christmas too.
How can you determine what is a good-quality knife?
You want a knife that is forged steel. The compression of the steel gives an advantage to the edge holding. It’s going to stay sharp longer and last longer.
How often should you get your knives sharpened?
For most home uses, we say about once a year or every other year. A lot depends on how much you use the knife and whether you maintain the edge. And we show people how to do that so they can keep their knives in good shape. A chef will probably have his knife sharpened at least two or three times a year.
Is there a test you can do to determine if you should have your knife sharpened?
Two good tests as far as sharpness, other than feeling the edge with your finger: one is if you have a tomato, you should barely have to use pressure to slice the tomato. Another one you can do is take a piece of copy paper, and (see if) you can cut the corner with a blade.
How do you hope to expand your business in the future?
We’re trying to work with professional chefs as a possible avenue for increased business. We’re doing some work with the Salvation Army Chefs for Hope where they train homeless individuals to become chefs. Things like that are real important, just to give something back to the community.
For more information, visit www.heimerdingercutlery.com.
Category: The Spotlight
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).