Sometimes that ‘s the way things go: two things fit together like pieces of a jigsaw. In that case, it’s fate that has decided to bring two worlds, two life stories, two people together. That’s doubtless what happened when the paths of Marcus Niendorf and Dietlind Wolf crossed. He is a pharmacist and owner of Lübeck’s Löwen Pharmacy, she a multi-talented artist. And their common vision is their Löwenmanufaktur (Löwen hand-made production).
Lively world heritage site
Of tradition and beautiful things
IN THE EMPEROR‘S CHAMBERS
There is a smell of lavender, cardamom and sandalwood in the air. The starry sky on the high ceilings is hand-painted, the furnishings a harmonious blend of restrained modernity and antique treasures from the 18th century. A visit to the Löwen Pharmacy is like travelling through time. Essential oils are in the air and visitors are assailed from all sides by the history they transport. This proud patrician house is a jewel at the heart of the Old Town as it is Lübeck’s oldest town house. Built around 1230, it is even around 250 years older than our famous Holsten Gate. “The Empress Elisabeth, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, resided here during a state visit in 1375”, Marcus Niendorf relates.
1812 - FOUNDING YEAR
And there is much to relate for this Lübeck pharmacist as in fact he could equally well have become a historian or architect, such is his seemingly limitless knowledge of the history of this brick building which has been so closely linked to his family history since 1812, the year the Löwen Pharmacy was opened. The Hanseatic tradition, the age of the Buddenbrooks, the chronicles of Lübeck have left their mark and can still be felt in the rooms of the Löwen pharmacy. The concept with which Marcus Niendorf has forged his niche, fits well with this atmosphere so steeped in history. “I took over the pharmacy from my father as the youngest of four children in the fourth generation. After the war, he rebuilt the business and made it profitable. And, of course, it was expected of me that I would continue the tradition. That is a great source of pleasure to me, especially because I have found a strategy which I think has the potential to ensure the survival of the pharmacy in the way I envisage.”
THE LION TAMER
We are talking about the hand-made Löwen production business. Since 2006, Marcus Niendorf has been developing traditional formulas based on sources from the family archives of his great grandfather. The idea of turning the clock back and creating a counter-movement to the rapidly automating world of the pharmacy had been going through his head for some time, and it took more definite shape on a visit to a convent pharmacy in Florence. He received support in the initial period from the nursing staff at Lübeck’s University Clinic. A calming oil with which to treat patients suffering from panic attacks was needed, and it brought success. The birth of a new product line: oils for the psyche. They bear expressive names such as “Löwenbändiger” (lion-tamer), “Balsam für die Seele” (balm for the soul) or “Löwenkraft” (strength of a lion), and they have proven their worth with customers of the Löwen manufactory. “It all fits together with perfect logic”, says Niendorf, “we have here this house steeped in history, I have this inexhaustible family archive and my specialist knowledge as well as my vision of the Löwen manufactory in the pursuit of which I have devoted all my efforts.”
BEAUTIFUL THINGS NEEDED
Indeed, the decidedly broad product range now includes herbal formulas in the areas of the mind, the immune system, travel and birth, to name but some. And yes, visually too, it fits perfectly with the “beautiful old pharmacy world” of the Löwen pharmacy.
This is where Dietlind Wolf comes into play. Marcus Niendorf’s matching piece of the jigsaw, so to speak, as they share the same interests and the same vision. “Things have to be beautiful.” Architecture, art, design, tradition, love of detail and authenticity, these are the things that the two — at first sight so different — protagonists of this story have in common.
Dietlind Wolf is an artist through and through. “I was born creative, if you like, that was evident even in kindergarten. Luckily they followed the Montessori principle which gave me many opportunities to express my creativity. I still have a lot of pictures of myself from this time”, she recalls. And so after completing her Abitur school-leaving exams, she embarks on a decidedly varied artistic career. Textile design in the haute couture field in Italy and Switzerland, a restaurant run as a collective, a teaching job in Hamburg at the Academy for Fashion and Design, prop styling for international magazines, principally in the area of food, and finally photography and her own line of ceramics.
VISION MEETS TRADITION
When their paths cross, Dietlind Wolf had had her studio in Hamburg for many years. Love finally led her from there to Marcus Niendorf and to Lübeck. And here the two of them now live, in a venerable patrician house, above the Löwen pharmacy, at the heart of things in Lübeck’s world cultural heritage site, the UNESCO Old Town. The conversion work on the 120 square metres on the top floor is far from finished; it’s an ongoing process. “We take a lot of pleasure in architecture and we have a lot of ideas in our heads, some of which can be realised and some maybe not”, the pair muses. In the pharmacy below, on the other hand, the creative energy on show knows no bounds. “The Löwen manufactory is our baby, and to a degree also our legacy for Lübeck”, Marcus Niendorf explains, looking at his wife. Once again, it is clear how well this couple complement each other as the two creative talents are developing the beautiful product design on their own, creating the perfect stage for their tinctures and creams in the photos in their online shop. With an unbelievably sure eye for style, Dietlind Wolf creates the perfect setting for the product, herbs, miniature bowls and drawings — once learned never forgotten, and some people are simply born with it. “I am passionate about conveying the authenticity of something in the photo. Luckily, this trend already exists in food photography and I would like to apply it to pharmaceuticals, too”, she explains. Perhaps it is this very authenticity which makes the overall package so charming. Pharmacist and artist, Lübeck and the Old Town island and a vision of tradition and beautiful things.
“Whenever I need to take a break and recharge my batteries, I go to the goldsmiths “Galerie Nimbus” belonging to Hannes Kuhn and Ulla Herz and I look at their simply wonderful things. Another favourite place is the “Fräulein Brömse” café at the Hansemuseum. We sit there in these charming rooms and are looked after by quite delightful people.”
“Lübeck in fog and Lübeck by night. I love it here when the town becomes one with itself.”