“I love the United States,” Herholz said. “It’s by far the best country I’ve ever lived in.”
European born and bred, the 39-year-old entrepreneur grew up in East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Living in a communist state, he always dreamed of moving to America.
“There are so many opportunities here, a lot of people just don’t see that it’s right there,” Herholz said. “Just use your head and get creative.”
Herholz immigrated to Kingsport on April 20, 2001, while working for a German company that filed bankruptcy just 18 months later.
At age 27, Herholz made the decision to stay and pursue other work. He married his wife, Michele, and applied for a green card immediately after his visa expired.
Taking various jobs over a period of about six years, Herholz saved every penny he made to open the restaurant.
“What I discovered when I came over here was that the restaurant was always packed no matter what happens,” he said. “So, I thought if I had my own business one day and I could make money, food would be an awesome idea.”
In 2008, Freiberg’s opened in Fountain Square at 203 E. Main St. — a historic location to downtown Johnson City. The old 1890s building was restored and refurbished for Freiberg’s to occupy.
With no help from the bank, Herholz paid for the restaurant’s start up in cash only. Five years and three months later, he says it’s doing “really good.”
Herholz brought his knowledge of German culture and cuisine to this city in 2008 and everyone is reaping the benefits.
In May, he passed the required interview and exam to gain citizenship and will be sworn in officially as a U.S. citizen Friday in Memphis.
“After I finally have my passport, we’re going to have a party,” he said.