Success Story

How an old bank was turned into the largest and best-known coffeehouse in Switzerland: A success story.


Where is there a need? What is meaningful and what is not? How can we design an establishment that directs its work towards actual, human needs?

The roots of unternehmen mitte lie in the following Basel cultural projects: Alte Stadtgärtnerei (1986-88), ZONE (1987-90), GEDANKENBANK (1988-90) Werkraum Schlotterbeck (1990-93), Werkraum Warteck (since1993) and unternehmen EPOQUE (1997-98).

The prospect of buying an extraordinarily beautiful villa with park in Basel paved the way to the founding of unternehmen mitte. That was in the summer of 1998. Thomas Tschopp and Daniel Häni operated unternehmen EPOQUE in the villa by means of an interim-use contract. However, at the close of the sales negotiations “we boys outbluffed ourselves” – and thankfully so!


For only three months later, on November 4th, 1998, the ownership of a much larger and much more interesting building could then change hands – the former headquarters of the Schweizerische Volksbank (the Swiss People’s Bank) in the centre of Basel. Together with the Edith Maryon Foundation, this stately building – at the time owned by Credit Suisse – could be acquired for the moderate price of CHF 10 million.


unternehmen mitte was founded as a private limited company on December 17th, 1998 by Georg Hasler, Thomas Tschopp and Daniel Häni and entered a 15-year quasi-property rental agreement with the Edith Maryon Foundation on December 31st.


The venture’s founding was a breakthrough in the Basel cultural movement. For the first time, a building could be secured not just for the purpose of interim use but by purchase with secured, long-lasting ownership rights. The Edith Maryon Foundation’s guarantee prevents the reselling of and any speculative transactions in relation to the building. The rent reflects the sum of all actual incurred costs including mortgage interest rates, loan interests, depreciation and maintenance costs.

Since 2012, the rental agreement has been indefinite.



New Year’s 1998/99:
Relocation from the „Villa Epoque“ to Gerbergasse 30

8. April 1999:
Remodelling and opening of the Fumare non Fumare bars

Remodelling of the 1st + 3rd floor co-working space

June 2000:
Arte-Plage – Swimming pool in the Great Hall for ART

Fall 2001:
Opening of the coffeehouse

Winter 2001:
Remodelling of the health centers

Fall 2004:
Installation of an open fireplace in the coffeehouse

New Year’s 2005/06:
Founding of the Basic Income Initiative 

June 2008:
Record daily turnover during the Holland-Russia EM Game in Basel > 45’000 CHF

August 2008:
Portrait in the economics magazine: brand eins

September 2008:
Film premiere: Grundeinkommen – ein Kulturimpuls

December 2008:
Benjamin Hohlmann takes over management of gastronomy

Summer 2009:
NEULAND – temporary observation platform at 28 meters high

November 2009:
OLOID-WOCHE – The ball gets rolling 

September 2010:
Radio-Kulturcafé DRS 2 – Two weeks live from the coffeehouse

October 2011:
Installation of the STEINER LINE

November 2011:
Founding of the Kaffee-Akademie

March 2012:
Start of the Kaffee-Mobil at Marktplatz

April 2012:
Launch of the people’s initiative for an unconditional basic income in Switzerland

Fall 2012:
Founding of Generation Basic Income

June 2013:
mitte-COLA is here

June 2013:
Portrait in the business section of ZEIT

July 2013:
Opening of Café Frühling in Kleinbasel

4. October 2013:
Submission of the people’s initiative and money-mountain performance in Bern

February 2014:
Swiss championship title in coffee brewing

June 2014:
12th place in coffee brewing at the world championships 

November 2014:
1st place: Best of Swiss Gastro Coffee

March 2015:
Interview in the Süddeutschen newspaper

April 2015:
Relocation of the Kaffee-Akademie to Münchenstein

Partners of the GmbH were and are:

Daniel Häni (since1998)

Thomas Tschopp (1998-2014)

Georg Hasler (1998-2006)

Rembert Biemond (2001-2004)

Anton Marty (2001-2001)

Rainer Senn (2001-2010)

Carmen Bregy (2004-2006)

Tarik Nazari (2004-2007)

Benjamin Hohlmann (since 2010)


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