The purchase of 300 ares in Studen Grien formed the basis for the development of Heidi and Ernst Wegmüller vision. It all started with the construction of a two-storey detached house. With full vigour and supported by an assistant, they operated a chicken farm at the time, had deer, peacocks, flamingos, storks and bred exotic birds, such as macaws, cockatoos, Agapornis, etc.
The forest lake was created in its current form by using some of the gravel used in the construction of the road between Lyss and Biel. The qualified car mechanic, E. Wegmüller, simultaneously built a car paint shop in the same area.
Construction started on the toilets and shower facility for the planned campsite.
A campsite was built with a small pub is called "Camp Florida". There was a pool right in front of the few covered seats. Chickens and wild parrots, as well as flamingos, cranes and various exotic bird species which E. Wegmüller bred, livened up the campsite in their own special way. Mrs. Frida Stettler, Heidi Wegmüller and their children, who always diligently helped out and supported E. Wegmüller in every conceivable way, deserve a special mention. So this place became more and more known and appreciated as a cosy recreational area.
Heidi and Ernst Wegmüller applied for a licence to sell non-alcoholic beverages at their extended restaurant, which had 120 seats at the time.
Construction of the new tropical plant restaurant which opened in 1962.
E. Wegmüller decided to construct a minigolf course. The half-covered terrace with 100 seats was built onto the restaurant on the shores of the forest lake. The company kept developing and became known as the most beautiful tropical plant cafe in Switzerland.
The Wegmüller-Stube was added on to the restaurant. There was a fir which had grown through the roof and all the furniture was very solid and heavy. Macaws were kept behind glass in what is now the Sääli (small room).
The aviaries were converted into what is now the Marok (Moroccan themed room). You still had a view of the macaws in the Sääli.
The campsite was closed and converted into a car park (200 parking spaces). The old toilets and shower facilities were converted into a detached house. The old campsite kiosk was converted into a bungalow. Factory buildings were constructed on the old car park (where the miniature golf course now is) and used to sell boats and cars.
The Wegmüller family fulfilled another dream. They built their home around the pool of the former campsite (where the dance bar now is). In addition, a new staff residence was constructed (where the Castello now is).
The first orchid show was held, which to this day still serves to make the winter more pleasant for our guests. From that day forward, it was held every January-March.
Christine and Urs Schwab-Wegmüller (the founder's daughter
and her husband) leased the business. Very good teamwork developed between the two generations, which paved the way for further development. The new generation took charge of running the restaurant, Mr. Wegmüller was responsible for all renovation and construction work, and Mrs. Wegmüller continued to work hard in the background and helped out whenever the need arose.
At this time, we sold as many as 10,000 pork chops a year which were all barbecued on the "self-serve grill". Chips and bread were served with it. It wasn't long before salad dishes, chips and menu suggestions were introduced. The first Sunday menus were sold. As many as 350 diners were served by Mr. Schwab from a domestic kitchen equipped with only 4 electric hobs, an oven and a deep fryer. In addition, their ice creams were very popular. At that time, we only had a small number of auxiliary staff and temporary workers on our payroll.
They began converting the Wegmüller's home into a smart bar.
That is why the Wegmüller family moved into their bungalow with conservatory.
At the same time, the restaurant's infrastructure and dance stage were extended and renovated for 1.8 million so as to be able to continue to meet the guests' demands. Among other things, the office, the cold store and the beer cellar, as well as the entire buffet system with a waiters' self-service device, were replaced and modernised. The heating system had to be fully overhauled and expanded and was centralised in the process.
This was too risky for Mr. Wegmüller and he sold the facility to Mr. and Mrs. Schwab. Mrs. Schwab's 3 siblings had to be paid out CHF 200,000.00 each after 5 years. They couldn't complain of a lack of work during this period. As there were always too few covered seats available, the guests were prevented from entering the restaurant by way of a turnstile at the entrance, and they could only go in when some other diners had left the restaurant. This measure had to be taken to ensure that the service staff had enough room and did not get stuck in large crowds of people.
On 14 March, the restaurant successfully opened and was now permitted to serve alcohol. The Florida Bar was another new addition. The bar was considered a very unusual establishment by European standards. It offered its guests with live music and attracted revellers with an exceptional dance stage, which looked like a peninsula in the reflection of the pool.
However, after just ten months the unthinkable happened. Due to a short circuit and the resulting smouldering fire, the bar was burnt to the ground.
Moreover, false media reports meant that guests assumed that the whole Florida premises had burned down. A decline in sales of up to 50% was recorded.
The burned-down Florida Bar was rebuilt and reopened with great success as a dance bar offering live music.
The car park was enlarged.
What is currently the Wegmüller-Stübli was renovated and extended to include a Sääli (small room).
The old factory buildings of the former car dealership were removed and the miniature golf course was built in its place.
Three rooms to accommodate staff and a studio were built above the kitchen.
Christine and Urs Schwab opened the new Seestube and the conservatory with a forest house. This resulted in an average increase in sales of 15%.
The two tournament minigolf and miniature golf courses blossomed into the most beautiful ones in all of Europe. Willy Hartmann, a Swiss certified Master Gardener, was responsible for this development. Not only did he devote himself to the Florida's tropical forest, but he also tended and maintained the minigolf courses as well as the entire grounds of the Florida Park.
The new children's paradise was able to be put into operation.
A staff residence with room for 5 families was built.
After a 14-month construction phase, the Hotel Florida was opened. It includes 40 double rooms, 1 suite, group meeting rooms, seminar rooms and a fitness centre offering massage services and a hairdressing salon.
In July, the Minigolf World Championship was held in Switzerland for the first time on our minigolf courses.
In addition, the car park was completed.
A goldsmith's studio was integrated in the Florida's facility, which is managed independently by Walter Steck.
A staff residence was converted into 7 additional hotel rooms. The new building is called "Castello".
Opening of the clothes shop called "Xanadu" and the hotel's own 4 garages.
A basement was successfully added to a staff residence, making it groundwater-proof and thus creating a new storage facility.
The kitchen was able to be completely modernised. Among other things, the gas hobs were replaced with induction ones. The office and all cold stores were newly equipped with safety tiles.
The paths of the minigolf course were completely laid with colourful paving stones and thus also widened and made even more accessible to wheelchair users.
The restaurant's entrance area was renovated.
Reconstruction of our Sääli and Stübli started and finished in February 2008. On the right side of the restaurant facing the lake, the radiators were replaced and the linoleum was substituted with the same floor tiles as in the Stübli.
In parallel with the conversion in the Stübli and Sääli, the ventilation and heating systems in these 2 rooms and in the restaurant were upgraded using state-of-the-art technology.
After some heated debates, the traditional fireplaces were replaced with 2 large round tables, and Lumitubes were installed on the ceiling above them to allow natural light into the room so as to show the beautiful old brick walls to their best advantage. The floor was levelled to the same level as the existing one. Flexible 2-seat bar tables were introduced.
In the Marok, the wooden structure with the colourful windows was replaced with a new roof featuring large neutral windows and insulated.
In the same vein, new insulation material was installed in the entire ceiling of the left side of the restaurant, the entrance to the dance stage and the goldsmith's studio. The conservatory in the adjacent rental apartment was renovated and insulated.
Stefanie Schwab, Christine & Urs's daughter acquired an 80% stake in Restaurant Florida AG. A holding company structure was formed.
The ceiling of the right side of the restaurant was renovated and insulated.
At the beginning of the year, the shore facing the forest was filled with 2,000 m3 of rock. A large meadow for ducks was created, which was planted with selected trees and shrubs. The fence facing the edge of the forest was replaced with an electric one. In addition, a new flamingo island was created, which at a later date was reduced in size. As autumn approached, the flamingo stable was newly tiled, insulated and fitted with an oil heater. An enclosure was then built to prevent the flamingos from continuing to escape.
The Xanadu clothes shop was redeemed by Mr. Messerli and the "Red Cat" was opened.
The minigolf course was newly leased to Edith and Patrick Gutzwiller.
Also in January, the regulars' table was converted into a friendly "corner". The planted section of the roof above it was cleared and equipped with a water tank and an automatic irrigation system. This was newly planted and the side roof was insulated and newly designed.
All of the important parts of the kitchen were fitted with non-slip flooring. The office was reconstructed in order to provide enough room for the new economical dishwasher. Due to the size of the new dishwasher, the ice cream freezer had to be replaced. A new osmosis system was installed.
The toilets were brought up to date and brightened up with a nice new design. Furthermore, a popular children's toilet was constructed. The entrance area was repainted.
A heat pump was installed in the hotel and in January the heating and water pipes leading to the restaurant and the staff houses were laid. In July, all heating system substations were replaced and then the heat pump was put into service for the first time.
The new website went live.
The playground was renovated and the conditions and safety aspects were revised and included in the planning of it.
Florida celebrated its 50th anniversary with various events and an open doors day.
The last party at the Florida Dancing was celebrated in April 2014. After 34 years the Dancing closed its doors with sadness.
On the 9th of July 2014, after almost 50 years, the first Flamingo baby was born. The Flamingo baby girl was named Flora. This name was selected via a competition.
The magic garden with herb spiral next to the Castello was completed and invites you to linger and relax.
The new waste disposal facility has been built centrally along the parking area between the hotel and restaurant.
The forest lake was built with a regulation for the water level, with a water overflow into the old Aare river.
The houses on Aarweg 31 & 27 have been made newly accessible because the old lines led through the construction site of the new event place.
Earlier this year, the demolition of the Dancing was made. This was just the start of the construction for the new place to hold different type of events.
In February, the new labeling concept was realized.
In the parking lot some of the big trees had to be felled because of a disease. The planting was replaced and on the forest lake new flower beds were created and a new island for the ducks was put in place.