MINSTER — Almost as common as the German Alpine hats, which were sported by dozens of Minster Oktoberfest-goers this weekend in downtown Minster, were the German steins.
There were tents of vendors selling German-themed memorabilia and souvenirs at Oktoberfest, and one of them was a family-owned booth with shelves upon shelves stacked with the steins. Its owners, siblings John, Bob, Jim and Ron Sippel and Margaret Walker, started the business in their hometown, Vandalia, in 1977. John Sippel is the founder of the Oktoberfest there.
“We started there and we had people from Minster down there kind of look over our Oktoberfest,” he said. “They wanted us to come up here and set up steins at theirs. So we’ve been doing that ever since 1977.”
The steins they sell are imported from Germany, and each one is unique. They sell everything from antique steins that tend to be rarer, more collectible and more pricey, to newer steins, and custom-made steins, which are popular sellers. Collectors tend to look for a little bit of everything, Sippel said, and so the family carries a wide variety. In 2009, they became the largest stein company in the world. The market for steins is vast and never-ending, Sippel said, with sales coming from their website, SteinCenter.com, all year round.
Custom-made steins are the biggest sellers, he said. They get requests from corporations and units of the military that send their logos. The family will use the logos to create a design, which they will send to Germany to have a stein made from it. One stein they sell sports “President of the United States,” the President’s seal, and says Air Force One.
Sippel and one of his brothers were in the military stationed in Germany, and part of their family was in Germany as well. After attending several festivals there, they became interested in the steins.
The family takes pride in their special series of Minster Oktoberfest steins designed specifically for the city’s festival.
“Being up here so long, we found out that the church is actually the center of the community, so we designed this one here first,” Sippel said.
The one he described has the two steeples from Minster’s St. Augustine Catholic Church on its lid. When the lid is lifted, there is a likeness of the painting on the church’s ceiling.
There is a stein in the series that sports the Wooden Shoe Inn’s name and logo, and one that simply says Minster Oktoberfest.
Each one tells its own story of Minster’s history, which the family thoroughly researched.
One lists all the original land owners in Minster and a picture of Franz Josef Stallo, Minster’s founder. This collection is among the most popular steins the family sells at Minster Oktoberfest.
“This is a really die-hard German community,” Sippel said.
“We’ve been coming up here 37 years. A lot of these people have become family. We went to some weddings throughout the year; we got to know them. This is a really German community. And they like their history.”