William J. Zehnder Jr.
Class Year: 2002
Title: Cofounder and Executive Chairman, Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, Inc.
As a 4-H member I learned how to work well with others. It also taught me self-motivation. Early community involvement is important and as a 4-H member we were involved in many projects to better our community.
William Zehnder, Jr., better known as Tiny, has become a symbol of Frankenmuth, Michigan. Zehnder began working for his parents at Zehnders Hotel at the age of 18. When the family purchased a second restaurant in 1950, Zehnder became part-owner and manager. Under Zehnders leadership, the restaurant, now called the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, has grown from seating 350 to 1200 people today and is the 10th largest independent restaurant in the United States based on sales. Zehnder is said to be responsible for changing the atmosphere of Frankenmuth. After his Bavarian-style addition was built onto his restaurant, he encouraged other businesses to adopt the German theme. The result is now a Bavarian community that attracts about 3 million visitors each year. The Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival was originally a celebration for the Bavarian Inns reopening after its renovation; the festival is now in its 43rd year. Zehnder is a member of the Historical Society of Michigan, a life member of the City Memorial Park Association and the Frankenmuth Conservation Club. He was a founding member of the Michigan Justice of the Peace Association and is a past president of both the Michigan Simmental Association and Pheasants Forever. He is the financial supporter of a 4-H barn survey project that is featured at the Library of Congress. He also enjoys collecting and repairing historic Michigan bridges. In memoriam May 23, 2006.