Zondag Distillery

Westeinde Zondag Distillery
Photo: I guide you through The Hague

Here in The Hague I often notice company names on shopfronts that differ from the company that is currently doing business in the shop or building. This always triggers my curiosity and I try to find out more about the history of the building. That’s what I did after spotting the building on Westeinde 10, with the name ‘Firma J. Zondag – Wijnhandel – Distilleerderij’ in beautiful yellow-and-green tiles. As you might have guessed, the Dutch word ‘distilleerderij’ means ‘distillery’.

Former employee

The company J. Zondag came to life in an entertaining interview I had with former employee Hans Frommé. He joined the ranks of the Zondag company in 1962 as junior clerk. It was his first job after leaving secondary school. Hans told me:
‘I had three colleagues, the driver who made deliveries in a Volkswagen van, a warehouse clerk and a production assistant. Mrs Zondag, the owner’s mother, was in charge of daily affairs. She had a firm hand — even her son was under her thumb.

What kind of company was Zondag Distillery?
Glass Zondags old jenever
Photo: borrelglazen.nl
Hans Fromme - Vault Zondag Distillery
Photo: I guide you through The Hague

‘Zondag Distillery was a liquor- and wine merchant founded in 1835. From secret family recipes, it produced a variety of liquors, including old and young ‘jenever’ (Dutch gin), lemon gin (made with real lemon peel) and black-currant gin, again with real black-currants. We also made brandy (vieux in Dutch), also known as fake cognac. And liqueurs in all sorts of flavours. All the recipes were safely stored in the vault.’
‘But we also made non-alcoholic beverages, such as the lemonade syrup we produced for the Saint John de Deo hospital, now known as HMC Westeinde. And we filled soda siphons with carbon dioxide. This was quite a tricky job, because these siphons sometimes exploded. No health and safety regulations in those days!’

What did the job of junior clerk entail?
Glass Zondags old 'jenever'
Photo: Jeneververzameling.be

‘In the winter I had to arrive 15 minutes early to get the heater burning. I made invoices and answered the telephone. In busy times I helped out in the shop. And I made deliveries in The Hague’s city centre. The supplies were stored in the cellar beneath the building and I had to make endless trips down and up the stairs to prepare the deliveries. I made deliveries using a Solex motorized bicycle with enormous saddle bags. The winter of ’62-’63 was extremely harsh and there was so much snow that I had to get off the Solex and push the machine and its cargo through. Later the company bought a Deux Cheveau delivery van and I was allowed to drive it.’

Zondag Distillery
Photo: Hans Frommé

‘I could also use my creative side in designing and building displays in the shop window. This gave me much pleasure. In 1965 I made a special display to celebrate the 130-year anniversary of the company’

What was the clientele like?

‘We had a number of big customers, including barracks and other military institutions in The Hague. The British Embassy was quite nearby, so I went there with my Solex to deliver liquor. And since the Zondag family was Roman Catholic they also supplied mass wine to churches. We had three price lists: the red one for the regular big customers; the brown one for the smaller regulars and the black one for customers that came into the shop occasionally. You might understand that the prices on the brown list were the lowest.’

Looking back, how do you feel?
Sign Zondag Distillery
Photo: Hans Frommé

‘I had a great time working for the Zondag Distillery. I had to do and was allowed to do everything. And they taught me the benefit of working hard and keeping myself in motion. Despite that, I left after three years, because I was looking for something different. This became a pattern in my life, I never did something for a long period of time. To my knowledge the Zondag company went on for 15 more years. A sign saying ‘no selling of alcohol to children under the age of 16’ still hangs on my kitchen door, reminding me of that wonderful experience.’


If you want to learn more about businesses in The Hague, then book a Historic The Hague Walk with me!

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Jacqueline Alders 3

Blogger Jacqueline Alders
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