Cupcake craze takes Kleinbasel by storm

Kleinbasel includes eight residential districts

With its art and design schools, cosmopolitan population and relatively low rents, the north Basel area of Kleinbasel is a mecca for creative entrepreneurs.

This content was published on December 3, 2011
Rachel Marusak Hermann,

REH4, an association for owners of art spaces, independent boutiques, and concept restaurants located on the “sunny side of Basel” has just welcomed its newest members who are devoted to taking cupcakes to the next level.

Situated in a quiet, unassuming residential street in Kleinbasel, the YUMM Club, a boutique bakery that specialises in cupcakes, looks like a storefront from the set of Sex in the City.

Co-owners, Nicolas Kündig and Sarah Kleiber say that although their concept stems from the cupcake craze that had its beginnings in the famous American series, they have adapted it to Swiss taste.

“We started off with the big cupcakes and we soon realised that people were just overwhelmed by the quantity, calories, fat and sugar,” said Kündig. Their biggest seller today is a mini-cupcake (SFr3) which comes in up to 18 flavours, from rose water vanilla and banana chocolate to apple ginger and coconut.

Beyond the cupcakes, the YUMM Club, which opened its doors on November 14, also offers a place for people to hang out.

The right mix

It’s not a surprise the Basel’s first cupcake speciality shop found its home in Kleinbasel. The area, generally defined as eight districts (Altstadt Kleinbasel, Clara, Wettstein, Rosental, Matthäus, Klybeck, Kleinhüningen, Hirzbrunnen) situated in the north of Basel, seems to offer the right mix of cheap rents, diversity and art for some of the city’s creative individuals to set up shop. Or at least that’s how Angie Ruefer, president of REH4, an association of independent business owners in the area, explains it.

“You don’t have to earn a lot of money to live here and start a small business. Even if it doesn’t make a lot of money, it’s okay, you survive,” she said. Ruefer also says that the presence of the fashion, graphic design and architectural schools attracts young, innovative people to the area.

“We have interesting people here with good ideas, trying new concepts and new ways of working together.”

The YUMM Club owners, who are also members of REH4, admit that what first attracted them to Kleinbasel over other locations was cost.

Downtown rent is prohibitive for most start-ups in Basel. Space on Freiestrasse, for example, fetches up to SFr5,450 per square metre, per year, according to a 2011 Retail Market Study by Location Group. Kleinbasel prices are generally more affordable for new businesses—Künding and Kleiber pay SFr900 per month for their 40 square metres.

Now that they are in the neighbourhood, the baking-duo agrees that Kleinbasel is the right fit for their concept.

“In many respects, cupcakes are a couture item. They are highly decorative. They are colourful. They are pretty. So, I think that we fit hand in hand with the graphic and fashion designers in this area,” said Kündig.

For Kündig and Kleiber, who come from marketing and retail backgrounds respectively, getting into REH4 was a stamp of approval. “We’ve been following REH4 for quite a while. And then having the option of being in this unique little club in itself, we were really excited,” Kündig said.

A creative network

REH4 was started in 2006 by a core group of creative business owners in Kleinbasel who wanted to attract more attention to their store offerings. Today, the association includes 33 shops, ateliers, cafés, restaurants, bars, hair salons and art spaces. The main criteria for getting in include independence (no chains), creativity in concept and geographic location.

For SFr100 per year, REH4 provides its members space on its website and promotion through two main events per year. An event in December aims at promoting Christmas shopping in Kleinbasel while the event in June seeks to attract Art Basel attendees to the area.

During last year’s international contemporary art show, REH4 hosted Catwalk in Public Space, which put a selection of clothing and accessories from seven member stores on display in the streets of Kleinbasel. Ruefer estimates that at least 2,000 people came out for the open-air show — despite the rain.

The founders of REH4 also wanted to help their district shake off a longstanding bad reputation.

Guillaume Daeppen owns a gallery specialising in urban art in Kleinbasel and was one of the association’s founding members. “When someone arrives in Basel for the first time, the first thing they hear about Kleinbasel is that there are lots of foreign people and that it’s dangerous,” he said. “The reality is very different.”

But according to Basel’s Office of Statistics, the Kleinbasel cliché does have some truth to it. In 2010, crimes reported in the north of Basel were about 25 per cent higher per 1,000 inhabitants than the canton average. Also, the populations of two of the districts in Kleinbasel (Matthäus and Rosenthal) are comprised of at least 50 per cent foreigners.

But Daeppen argues that since the opening of his gallery in Kleinbasel nine years ago, he has not experienced one instance of theft or vandalism. He also finds the multiculturalism good for creativity and inspiration.

The “sunny side” of Basel

Kleinbasel earned its sunny nickname as the sun sets on its side of the Rhine, warming the swimmers who dry off on the banks in the summer.


Located on the right bank in the north of Basel, the exact geographic area defined by Kleinbasel can vary depending on the source. According to Basel’s Office of Cantonal and City Development, Kleinbasel includes eight residential districts: Altstadt Kleinbasel, Clara, Wettstein, Rosental, Matthäus, Klybeck, Kleinhüningen, Hirzbrunnen.

Districts located in Kleinbasel generally have higher populations of foreign residents compared with those in the rest of the city. According to Basel’s Statistics Office, about 54% of Rosental’s population is comprised of foreigners.

From 2000-2010, the area experienced overall economic growth. New construction projects such as the expansion of the Messe exhibition site offer promising development in the area. The Erlenmatt Galerie, a high-end retail area supported by Roche, is scheduled to open in 2014.

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