Finally, with their family reunited, they returned to business and in 1926, built Anton’s dream, the House of ANRI, with room enough for the family, workshops, warehouses and offices. And Toni, now old enough, started to help his father and show interest in the family business.

In very short order, over 100 home workers were employed for ANRI and their products were exported to every country in Europe and to the United States.

World War II brought yet another setback to the valley, but when the war was over, the House of ANRI went right back to work, becoming even bigger and stronger. ANRI employed over 500 local families. Among the local wood carvers was Peter Insam, who at the age of 90 had seen both WWI and WWII come and go.

It was Anton Riffeser Jr.’s idea to build workshops so that the quality of wood carvings could be kept under better control. Production was increased without sacrificing quality by pre-contouring the figures, so the wood carvers concentrated their skill into the figure’s finishing. Wood carvers, joiners, assemblers, lacquerers, decorators and painters all worked together under one roof and enjoyed a free lunch daily. Anton Jr. was also responsible for consolidating the relationships with foreign customers and representatives. New materials were added to the products at this same time. The result of all these improvements was the placement of ANRI among the world’s leading wood carvers.

ANRI started co operations with many known local and foreign artists such as Ulrich Bernardi, Sarah Kay, Juan Ferrándiz, Gunther Granget, Walter Bacher, Karl Kuolt, Mira Fujita, Helmut Diller, Emmerich Mussner, Josef Malferteiner, Albert Moroder and Josef Bachlechner.

Anton Riffeser Jr. and his wife, Frieda, had a son, Ernst, born in 1943. Ernst grew up and attended the Zurich Architectural University. He married Ewi Waibl from Meran and became the third generation of Riffesers in the House of ANRI. He followed in his father’s footsteps, introducing new products that again elevated the quality of ANRI’s product.

Since 2000, Thomas Riffeser, son of Ernst and Ewi, like so many Riffesers before has stepped into his forefathers footsteps, and is today’s president of the House of ANRI.

Despite the change of liking and interest in these days, Thomas like all the Riffesers before, is looking for new ideas and introducing new artists like Fini Moroder and new products like the Holy Land Nativity to meet today’s taste and demand.

Interestingly it is a great step back in time that brings a huge success for ANRI in these days. In 2004 Thomas introduced a new line called “Back to the Roots”. The goal was to capture the antiqued/aged look reminiscent of traditional craftsmanship. Carved out of the finest Linden wood and each piece lovingly hand painted in special water colors. The figures come with much rougher cuts, left by the knife of the skilled master carvers.

By Edmund Dellago – ©ANRI