A black-and-white photo of Gottlieb and Adele Duttweiler, taken sometime between 1912 and 1915.

Migros founder Gottlieb Duttweiler

«Today I saw a girl whom I want to be my wife»

It's quite simply THE Migros love story: that of Adele and Gottlieb Duttweiler. The couple found in each other the love of their life – although Adele was anything but impressed at the outset.

From
Kian Ramezani
Date
Format
Story

It was the year 1911 and, just as every morning, 18-year-old Adele Bertschi was taking the train from Horgen to Zurich, where she worked in the ETH seed control department. A young man boarded the train in Rüschlikon, sat down opposite and couldn't seem to take his eyes off her.

«I was a little naive when I married Adele. Only later did I realise how incredibly lucky I had been to have found this woman. I understand this more and more as time goes on.»

His view of her

«I didn’t really like it. After all, I was still practically a child. But it was probably this very reticence on my part that made him persevere,» Adele would later say about their first encounter. The young man was a certain Gottlieb Duttweiler, a 22-year-old merchant working for a prestigious grocer in Zurich. He had already made a name for himself there by cutting out the middleman and importing coffee directly from Brazil. Adele remained sceptical, while an almost euphoric Gottlieb told his mother, «Today I saw a girl whom I want to be my wife.» His mother wanted to know her name. But he had no idea.

Gottlieb and Adele Duttweiler sitting on a wall by Lake Zurich.

Thereafter, the scene in the train compartment repeated itself every morning, yet without the desired effect. «She wanted nothing to do with me, and made that patently clear, which was all the more reason for me to be interested in her,» Duttweiler would later recall. He thus opted for a bold gesture: Having recently started riding lessons, he decided to hire a horse for the weekend and visit Adele in Horgen. Resplendent on horseback in his fine green riding jacket, he made a big impression – on Adele’s mother, who promptly invited him for lunch. Young Adele, meanwhile, found his appearance daft and remained reserved. When he suggested going sailing on Lake Zurich, Adele asked her sister Bertha to accompany them – albeit as a chaperone, rather than a matchmaker.

«My husband could also be unfair sometimes, but you could challenge him. Brave people impressed him. He didn’t like people who kept their head down, flattered him or were obsequious.»

Her view of him

After a year of intense courtship, Gottlieb finally won Adele over, and the couple celebrated their engagement. They married in Horgen church on 29 March 1913. Duttweiler founded Migros in 1925. The rest is history.

A colour photo of Adele and Gottlieb Duttweiler arm in arm in March 1960.

Sources:

  • Häsler, Alfred A: Adele Duttweiler-Bertschi – Ein Jahrhundert Leben, 1993

  • Curt Riess: Gottlieb Duttweiler, 2012, at ex libris

  • Martin Wirz: Dutti der Riese, 2007, DVD at ex libris