Louisville Magazine

FEB 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 2.19 71 Augustus Heimerdinger is a ghost on the wall. His portrait — the first in a line of family cutlers — fades in its frame. Augustus' great-great-great grandson, Carl, who is 64 and now heads the cutlery, still doesn't know how Augustus, whose dad was a tailor, got into the business of sharpening and manufacturing knives and scissors. No records. Carl just has the knowledge that August married up near Cincinnati, got on a boat down the Ohio, traveled as far as the Falls, then planted his feet in Louisville and started Heimerdinger Cut- lery Co. in 1861. e knife cut down the bloodline to Carl Heimerdinger. Apron on, gray mustache tips curling up, he is soft-spoken as he helps an old man salvage some knives that were a gift from a past employer. Carl grew up in the store. His dad, Henry, would bring him in on Satur- days or during the summers. He wasn't allowed to touch anything in the retail showcases, the surfaces of which he'd clean. is was back when the business was downtown, before urban renewal, before 1983, when Heimerdinger moved to its current location in St. Matthews. Eventually, there were barber clippers for Carl to work on. He'd tear them apart, figure out what was wrong. "ere're probably very few people in this part of the country that have more experience repairing and remanufacturing hair clip- pers," says Carl, who tried engineering school for a couple years before deciding it wasn't his bag. "You have to go several hundred miles away to find anything that closely resembles our shop," he says. "It's become almost a thing of the past." Presently, Carl sharpens a chef 's knife in the dim back room, split by a clut- tered "pack rat" shelf into two sides: the "knife-sharpening department" and "scissor-sharpening department." He has developed a following among Louisville chefs: Matt Weber at Uptown Cafe, Daniel Stage at the Louisville Country Club, Edward Lee. Carl holds the knife gently against the grinding belt as the old machine softly whirs. It runs on the same motor from when Carl was 12. His dad — a woodworker at heart — rebuilt its wood frame in the '60s, and they've used it ever since. A carbon-steel cleaver causes sparks to fly at the grinding wheel. Carl sharpens in the mornings, rounds out orders in the afternoons, like for the stylist from New York who sent in her shears. Sometimes Carl finds so much nostalgia in this peace- ful, solitary job: polishing then honing a grandmother's sewing scissors, or that special knife she used for cutting chicken, or a grandfather's pocket knife. Sentimentality dulls in the throwaway age. He isn't sure how much longer shops like his will be around. One of his favorite German suppliers has quit making several scissors. "Between living in a dispos- able society and finding enough skilled labor…" — he trails off. "It's sad." In Germany, you'd apprentice for three years for this job. Carl has no understudy. His daughter helps out some, has learned some of the sharpening tricks, but is happy with her job as a supervisor at Buca di Beppo. His wife Glenna, who co-runs the shop — the way Carl's mom did with his dad — isn't sure how much longer they'll keep the storefront open. "If he decides to quit, it'll be the end," Glenna says. Carl will always sharpen, sure. He can take that with him. Really, the two have been wanting to travel. ey want to go to Germany, get to their German roots, visit Carl's family in Göppingen. And Solingen, where all the good knives and scissors are made. Heimerdinger's Cutlery Co. 4207 Shelbyville Road Carl Heimerdinger sharpening a chef's knife.

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