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It is with deep regret and profound sadness that we note the passing of dear friend Merrill Bacheler. Mr. Bacheler and his wife Christl Stangl were devoted and enthusiastic supporters of the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Potteries Museum. They both were always present at every Museum function, eager to assist in preserving and promoting the pottery originated by Christl's father, J. M. Stangl. They were both very hospitable and generous, their home was always open to me, whether for a prolonged photo shoot of their extensive collection, or simply for an impromptu chat. Merrill was always more than happy to recount his many years at Stangl Pottery, and provided numerous interviews over the years. The generous sharing of his Stangl experiences have been cherished by Stangl collectors and have added depth and meaning to many personal collections. His help was invaluable to our research for the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Potteries Museum and the books Collectors Encyclopedia of Stangl Dinnerware, Collectors Encyclopedia of Stangl Artware, Lamps & Birds and Collectors Encyclopedia of Stangl Artware, Lamps & Birds, 2nd Edition. Merrill and Christl were cherished friends, and will both be sorely missed.
Below is an excerpt from the Bachelers' biography printed in Collectors Encyclopedia of Stangl Artware, Lamps & Birds, 2nd Edition.
"In 1938, Merrill Bacheler began working at Stangl’s Trenton factory. He soon became an important part of Stangl’s sales team and did extensive traveling as a sales representative. Merrill also continued conducting John Kunsman’s traveling department store demonstrations at that time. Merrill: “I would usually be on the road for about a week at a time. I remember doing demonstrations in St. Louis and Boston. I was at several of the big stores in New York at different times, I remember Gimbel’s and Strawbridge & Clothier’s.”"
"Christl and Merrill were married in 1940. While raising their small children during the 1940s, Christl decorated birds at home in the evenings while the children slept. She also was in charge of the demonstrations and teas put on for group tours to the Flemington Outlet. Merrill worked at Eastern Aircraft in Trenton from 1942 through 1945 for the war effort. In the meantime, Martha Stangl married Merrill’s brother Jack Bacheler, a commercial artist. Martin Stangl wanted Jack to work at the pottery as a designer, but Jack chose not to abandon his established, successful art career."
"Following World War II, Martha resigned at the Flemington Outlet, and Merrill Bacheler was offered the position of Outlet manager. Merrill possessed a degree in business management and with his sales experience was able to quickly take charge of the outlet.
"Merrill Bacheler initiated many concepts during his time as
Flemington Outlet manager, but his most remembered accomplishment was the
popular walk-in kiln display. This
display was built in response to the many Stangl Pottery shoppers asking, “How
is it made?” Merrill utilized
one of the most prominent features of the salesroom, the largest of the old
brick periodic kilns no longer used."
"The outlet building with kilns protruding through its roofline has been a noted Flemington landmark since the 1920s. Periodic kilns such as these were once commonplace in such pottery centers as Trenton, New Jersey or eastern Ohio. They were easily and inexpensively constructed, but were not the most economical kiln to operate. Periodic kilns became obsolete when technological advancements allowed widespread and economical construction of continuous-fire tunnel kilns during the 1920s and 1930s. Stangl’s first periodic kiln was constructed in this building in 1924, the second and third were built in 1929, immediately following the loss of the Fulper Factory Plant #1. By 1935, when Martin Stangl discontinued manufacturing in Flemington and turned the Flemington building wholly over to retail showrooms, this style of kiln was nearly nonexistent in New Jersey and was disappearing fast in Ohio. As Flemington’s popularity as a tourist destination was ever increasing following World War II, Stangl’s kilns became legendary novelties as fewer and fewer “old-timers” were left to recall New Jersey’s “hey-day of clay” when such kilns were commonplace features of the clay districts."
"Merrill Bacheler capitalized on the notoriety of the kilns by opening the largest as his “Walk-in Kiln Display”. Within the kiln was installed a waist high, semi-circular display cabinet showing the various manufacturing steps required to produce Stangl’s dinnerware and artware. On the wall were hung large photographs of actual Trenton factory production processes and signs explaining the procedures."
"Merrill’s’ Walk-in Kiln Display quickly became a popular part of nearly every visitor’s trip to the Flemington Outlet. Even today, anyone reminiscing about the “old days” of Stangl’s Flemington Outlet always remark that the most memorable part of any trip to Flemington was the original Walk-in Kiln Display at Stangl."
"Christl and Merrill Bacheler retired from managing the Flemington Outlet in 1964. They sought a more peaceful livelihood than the frenetic pace of the Stangl Outlet, especially during heavy onslaughts of buses loaded with frenzied weekend tourists. In 1965, they purchased the “Village Misses and Deb Shop”, a ladies boutique of genteel character located in an historic house on Main Street in Flemington. This change in career allowed the Bachelers to pursue their hobby of restoring several of Hunterdon’s older homes and to spend weekends at their house on the Jersey shore. "
Following their many successful years at Stangl, Christl and Merrill realized a lifelong dream and opened their own retail establishment on Main Street, Flemington, the Village Misses & Deb Shop. The "Deb Shop", as it was fondly known, carried a variety of high-quality ladies' and misses' fashions, and was a popular destination known for quality, style and value. The Bachelers enjoyed running the Deb Shop for nearly thirty years before retiring in 1990.
1965 view of the front of the Bacheler's Village Deb Shop
Merrill enjoyed antiquing and the Jersey Shore, and used to make a hobby of buying rundown historic homes in the area and completely restoring and renovating them by hand. Merrill was a true craftsman. He was very civic-minded, being involved with the Ringoes Boy Scout troop for many years and a member of the Flemington Lions Club since 1946.
Following is his newspaper obituary, as appeared in the Hunterdon County Democrat on June 30, 2005:
Merrill Burgess Bacheler
RARITAN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Merrill Burgess Bacheler, age 88 years, of Raritan Township, NJ, died on Monday, June 27, 2005, at the Hunterdon Medical Center, Raritan Township, NJ.
Born in Summit, NJ, December 22, 1916, son of the late William and Marjorie Burgess Bacheler, he had formerly resided in Summit, NJ and had resided in Flemington, NJ since 1940. (He resided in Ringoes, Raritan Township and Flemington Borough during that sixty-five year span).
A 1935 graduate of Summit High School, he attended Syracuse University and Trenton School of Industrial Arts and Ceramic Engineering. Mr. Bacheler worked for Stangl Pottery, Trenton, NJ and later became Manager of the Stangl Pottery Showrooms in Flemington, NJ for twenty-five years. Then, he and his wife owned and operated the Village Deb Shop, Flemington, NJ until 1989.
He was a member and Past President of the Flemington Lions Club, where he was a member over fifty years. Additionally, Mr. Bacheler served on the East Amwell Township Board of Education and was a former Committeeman for the Ringoes Boy Scout Troup.
His wife, Christl Stangl Bacheler, died in 2003. Surviving are two sons, Scott Bacheler of Fort Myers, FL and Stewart Bacheler of Rotunda, FL; a daughter, Elizabeth Bacheler of Flemington, NJ; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.