The Zehnder & Bronner families have been at the forefront of creating a special place we Michiganders can easily take for granted.  "Michigan's Little Bavaria" is place people travel to from all over the country and world.

Many of our families have made it an annual tradition to visit Bavarian Inn, Zehnder's and Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  Big moments have been celebrated in establishments created by Judy Zehnder Keller and Irene Bronner's families (weddings, family reunions, shopping trips along the heated sidewalks of Downtown Frankenmuth).  Each of these women were deeply involved with their respective family and in the community from business growth & development, advocating for women and treating their employees with great care.

Collectively, their vision and influence have created a sense of community for many.  Arguably, Frankenmuth and the rest of Mid-Michigan wouldn't have a tourism destination without them (and their families).

Judy Zehnder Keller died October 19th, 2022, at the age of 77.  Not only did she work most of her life in the family business, but she owned the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, too.  She built the Bavarian Inn Lodge in 1986 and all of its expansions.

Judy Zehnder Keller
Judy Zehnder Keller

Frankenmuth City Manager, Bridget Smith, told mlive "Judy clearly was a brilliant business mind.  She was a good leader, and she would tell you that what she really knows is 'making beds and cooking chicken.'"

The Zehnder and Bronner families clearly like each other -- one of the named Bavarian Inn Lodge suites is "Bronner" and features a year-round Christmas tree as a nod to the family & tradition.

Irene Bronner died October 16th 2022.  She was a teacher at Frankenmuth Public Schools and Buena Vista according to the Detroit News. Of course, she was involved with Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, too.  Outside of that she was deeply involved in the community and lived in Michigan her whole life.

Irene Bronner (right) photographed 2017 for Frankenmuth's Dancing with the Local Stars. (No Changes Made)
Irene Bronner (right) photographed 2017 for Frankenmuth's Dancing with the Local Stars. (No Changes Made)

Having a "world famous" chicken dinner, looking in all the shop windows on a snowy night or spending a day at Bronner's with your family ... those are special moments!

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While I didn't know either of these women and my words will never sum up exactly how their family & friends feel during this time of mourning... On behalf of everyone that shared special moments at one of their businesses -- and created special moments with their own loved ones because of the Zehnder & Bronner hospitality -- We thank you and wish you peace during this time.

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