Stephan Grabner, from Abergavenny, was one of three sons, born in the former East Germany. He couldn’t study A-levels due to political oppression, so he trained as a nurse.
He came to work in the UK just before the reunification of East and West Germany and opened the famous Stephan’s Cellar in Abergavenny in 1993. It closed in the late 1990s and he turned to the steel, automobile and electronics industries, before converting to a therapist at the age of 50.
Mr. Grabner is keen to share his experience in business development and volunteer as a Business Wales mentor.
He trained as an Amatsu therapist, helping people recover from various painful conditions such as back or knee pain, injuries or whiplash.
Here is his story:
“I was born in the former East Germany in 1966, but Abergavenny has been my home for 30 years.”
“I grew up in Leipzig, a city in the state of Saxony. My father was curate at St. Thomas Church, a Lutheran church, where, incidentally, the composer Johann Sebastian Bach worked as Kapellmeister (the head of the choir Thomaner) and is buried My mother worked for the university where she was the commercial manager of the choir, organizing concerts and musicians.
“I am the youngest of three brothers, one of whom is a vicar and the other an accomplished musician. I never had a vision of what I wanted to do for a career like some people, but remember as a young boy wanting to be a toymaker.
“As I got older, I thought of engineering as an interesting career, but I could not pursue it due to political oppression in the former German Demographic Republic. At school, we mainly learned Russian, but from the age of 13 we had English lessons.My parents spoke fairly decent English as my father had international guests visiting.
“We always had an open day. Lots of people would bring their issues to the vicar so I could see where I get the social skills needed for my various jobs.
“The Berlin Wall, separating communist East Germany from West Germany, was built in 1961 and is one of the most powerful symbols of the Cold War.
Seeing the wall and not being able to walk through West Berlin was normal for us because we were born after it was built.
“We had relatives in both parts of Germany, but Western relatives had to have a visa to do so.
“I was not allowed to pass baccalaureate at the time because of political oppression. When I left school in 1982, I trained as a nurse at the hospital. J I also worked as a locksmith apprentice, handyman and driver.
“The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, and the reunification of East and West Germany was formalized on October 3, 1990, almost a year later.
“When the wall fell, I was looking for an opportunity to come abroad to learn English and work.
“A few months before Reunification, I had the opportunity to come and live and work in the UK. My father’s cousin knew a wine merchant, so I found a job in London as a helper, driver and porter boxes at 24 years old.
Six-year-old Stephan (centre, front row) on his first day at his village school in Hartmannsdorf near Chemnitz
“My English wasn’t good enough initially, but six months later I moved to Birmingham and later to Cardiff, where I met my wife.
“I had intended to open my own wine shop in Swansea, but that unfortunately fell through and, while I was expecting our first child, I ended up moving to a village near Abergavenny.
“At the time new premises were being built at Lewis’ Lane in Abergavenny town center so I took out a lease and opened an independent wine shop that many will remember called ‘Stephan’s Cellar’ in 1993.
“I graduated from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and focused on growing the business. I have had the good fortune to travel to places like South Africa, France and Portugal to wine fairs.I had a good reputation with around 5,000 different bottles of the alcohol and was named “Best Independent Specialist” off license of the year in 1996.
“I have been actively involved in the business world, having been chairman and vice-chairman of the Abergavenny Chamber of Commerce in the late 1990s.
Stephan (left) with singer Marty Wilde 1995 outside Stephan’s Cellar Abergavenny
Unfortunately a Safeway supermarket has opened on the outskirts of Abergavenny affecting footfall in the town centre. This, combined with the introduction of parking fees, led to the point where I unfortunately had to close the business.
“In the years that followed, I worked for several companies in the solar, steel, automotive and electronics sectors. I was involved in solar park construction projects in large scale in Europe and the UK.
“When I saw a decline in the solar market, due to Brexit and other forces, I wanted to work for myself.
Stephan at his wine shop 1998
“In 2015, I decided to change careers after being successfully treated by Clare Heal, an experienced Amatsu therapist, for hip and knee issues.
“Amatsu Therapy combines ancient Japanese ‘hands-on’ therapeutic techniques with modern research and works with the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as rebalancing other key mechanical and energetic structures. such as the spine, joints and bones.
“By bringing the body back into balance, Amatsu allows the body to heal itself. It provides effective and long-lasting results for a wide range of symptoms such as frozen shoulder, tennis/golfer’s elbow, migraines , whiplash, sciatica, back pain, etc. a few.
“In my treatments, I combine physical therapy with acupuncture.
Stephan with his brothers Frithjof (left), Wolf-Jürgen (right) – 1985
This amplifies the benefits of both techniques and provides lasting treatment results.
“The technique dates back around 3,000 years and is based on Japanese martial arts.
“Even after the first treatment, I was surprised how much it had changed in just one session. I was amazed that my hip and knee problems were gone after just six sessions. The smoothness and effectiveness of the treatment convinced me to train as an Amatsu practitioner.
Stephen Grabner at work at the Amatsu Abergavenny Center
“Throughout my diverse career, I have always had an interest in solving people’s problems, of a technical nature as well as in pain management. As the son of a vicar, our family was there to help people , it was the same in nursing, and I guess in my business career I was a problem solver.
“I started researching teaching schools before studying with Jane Langston at the award-winning Amatsu training school near London. I was apprehensive about going back to ‘school’ as I was almost 50, but Jane eased my fears by explaining how the course was structured around case studies, homework and was flexible around my freelance work.
“The training required to become an Amatsu Accredited Therapist is extensive and it took me two years to qualify. I started my training in 2016, completing the first of three exam levels (Anma) in November and last two exams (Seitai and Shinden) in 2017 and 2019 respectively. At the same time, I was a teaching assistant for two years and treated patients in my home clinic and rented rooms in shared clinics in Cardiff, Newport and Hereford.
“The business has grown significantly and in the fall of 2019 I made the decision to open a clinic in the historic Gunter Mansion on Lower Cross Street in Abergavenny as this is now my hometown. Signed the lease in Jan 2020, but two months later Covid hit, and the lockdown meant we couldn’t process customers.
“Meanwhile, I have been refurbishing the premises until it is safe to open in July 2020.
“In the summer of 2021, I joined Chris Roworth Amatsu and acupuncture training at the Japanese Integrated Medical School. In July this year, I celebrated my second birthday, and business is getting better and better.
“I treat people who are in pain and unable to do things they could normally do, or those who have tried other treatments but haven’t had lasting results.
“Alongside that, I’m a mentor for Business Wales. It’s a voluntary role using my expertise in business development.
“I have 30 years of experience in several different industries, from steel and construction to electronics, automotive, retail, healthcare and the food and beverage industry. I am passionate by people and quality and service are the key to success.
“Many years have been difficult, but I have learned from my mistakes, I have succeeded and I want to share this knowledge.”
To learn more, visit amatsucentre.com