Basel, with over 200,000 inhabitants, ranks as one of my favorite
cities in Europe. Maybe it has to do with the expansive Rhine
River cutting through the city or the beautiful old town area
with its cobblestone streets near the river's edge or, maybe
it's Basel's main shopping streets being car-free. It's on one
of these shopping streets that I find the offices of cookie,
chocolate and candymaker Laeckerli-Huus.
The seven-story building is old. Very, very old-as in dating
back to 1291. A Laeckerli-Huus retail store occupies the ground
floor. The company's famous flagship product is a gingerbread
cookie. However, these cookies aren't the no-frills kind made
in the USA but, ones containing honey, almonds, hazelnuts, orange
and lemon peels, a dash of cherry and secret spices. I received
my first taste of Laeckerli-Huus'scrumptious chewy cookie years
ago via a hotel pillow. Instead of the normal piece of chocolate,
several Swiss hotels substitute the bite-size cookie.
I explain to one of the store cashiers who I am and how I sent
a letter of introduction a month earlier to owner Peter Klein.
In a few minutes I'm meeting with the charming Christa Bruegger,
Export Manager. We then hop on the elevator to a third floor
meeting room. However, this isn't just your normal meeting room
as it also houses the company's very cool Tin Museum. The room
contains nine glass displays containing a wide array of antique
cookie tins, amusement and slot machines, postcards and gingerbread
pictures. Many are from England and Germany dated around the
turn-of-the-century. I've visited hundreds of company museums
but this one rates near the top. Matter of fact, Bruegger and
I later hike up to the wood timbered attic to see many more tins
and amusement machines packed in boxes due to lack of display
space. Note: It's also worth mentioning that this building dating
back to 1291 even has an elevator. Unlike in the USA, there's
no law in Switzerland requiring one.
The company traces its root back to 1903 but it wasn't until
1950 that Laeckerli-Huus opened its first store. Now, there are
three stores in Basel as well as five others around Switzerland.
All the goodies are made in a factory located a half-dozen miles
The company has occupied this building since 1973. Seven people
work in the head office. There's no formal dress code, employees
are on their own as far as finding parking spots and though nobody
smokesit's permissible. It's 10 minutes to the nearest
freeway and 20 minutes to Basel's airport. Any employee perks?
Twenty-five percent off on company products.
The third floor corner office of CEO Klein contains lots of old
stuff. When they were renovating the place in 1973, wall paintings
from the 15th and 16th century were discovered in his office.
So, along with the wall frescoes is a large trunk from 1792 and
storage cabinets dating from the 1800's. Lots of nik-naks in
the office but I don't see a computer, plants or any of their
yummy cookiesthough there's a quilt of a horse done by
Klein's wife. The view out his window? An unexciting view of
the building directly across the street.
We head back down to the ground floor where Bruegger walks me
around the flagship shop. The variety of cookies, chocolate,
candy and gift packages is amazing. Toy planes, trains and even
turn-of-the-century steamships stuffed with cookies are displayed
Colorful and collectable cookie tins of varying shapes and sizes
are everywhere. Bruegger says to pick out items I'd like to try
and in a few minutes I'm out the door with a bag full of goodies.
Later that night in my hotel room it's sample time. The best?
It's their gingerbread cookies dipped in both chocolate and rum.
Also fantastic are the bite-size "Amaretti Choco" cookies
which, are amaretto cookies dipped in chocolate. Also getting
the two thumbs up are the yummy chocolate truffles with ginger.
Jeez, living close to one of the stores would be a disaster to