CARLSBAD — In an effort to show appreciation to a man who is said to have given so much to others, several friends, family members and community leaders gathered Jan. 3 to celebrate the birthday of local business owner John Haedrich, affectionately known as “Big John.”
The German-born master craftsman and longtime owner of Tip Top Meats said he had tears in his eyes when he arrived at the surprise party, held at the Sea Point Resort, and found 75 to 80 people gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday.
“I was speechless,” Haedrich said. “I am so lucky and glad that I have been able to have these friends and family … and this job and business.”
“He loves the people there,” Edgar Engert, who works with the Ecke family, said. “The whole atmosphere, he is always up … and that is why people keep coming back.”
Although his popular business initially earned him recognition within the community, guests said his generosity to others is what has earned him respect and admiration.
“John has just always taken the time to be there for people,” said Craig Lindholm, who, along with his wife Valerie, helped organize the party. “He is the most sharing and caring person that I have ever met.”
Valerie Lindholm said a committee of people including herself and her husband, Edgar and Renate Engert, Matt and Phyllis Hall, Jeff and Laura Segall, the Bassetts, the Mangios and the Mulligans, spearheaded the planning. She said the party was catered by Tip Top Meats, of course, with accordion music provided by Rick Aschenbrenner with Kate Segall.
Many stories were told throughout the evening, paying tribute to the German immigrant who came to the United States in 1958 looking for a better life.
What had started as an effort to escape the oppressive regime in Germany and Europe during hard times in the late 1950s turned into the American Dream for Haedrich.
“I wanted to be free (from the Nazis),” Haedrich said. “I knew there was no future (in Germany) for the ideas that I had.”
The ideas he had, along with his skills as a master craftsman and butcher, eventually turned Big John and his restaurants into fixtures within their communities.
After leaving his family behind to start a new life and follow in the footsteps of his father, a young Haedrich settled in Los Angeles in 1959.
“I came into this professional trade through my parents and grandparents and great grandparents,” Haedrich said. “My mother was a chef cook.”
Haedrich started a business and eventually owned two restaurants in Glendale, where he became a fixture in the community.
But in the late 1970s, after vacationing in the San Diego area, Haedrich bought land from the Hadleys, once owners of Hadley’s Orchards, and along with his wife Diane, started a business in Carlsbad.
Haedrich once again took on many community service projects, where he helped young people at the Boys & Girls Clubs, St. Patrick School, and Tri City Christian school, and became active in the 4H and FFA organizations.
“Children are the future of America,“ Haedrich said. “The next generation.”
The family-run business these days includes the help of his grown children and their families. And Haedrich said he has no immediate plans to slow down.
“Eighty is the new 50,” he joked. “I am still doing the same things I did in my teens.”
“He still gets up every day at 5:30,” Engert said. “Sometimes he works until 8 o’clock.”
“I just always had it in my mind that I wanted to make it to 80,” Haedrich said. “And now that it is here, well things can go a bit slower.”