There’s something different happening in Menzingen

By Abbie Pumarejo

In February of this year, Something Different opened its doors. This creative cooperative, where local and expat artists and hobbyists can all come together is the brainchild of Nikki and Stuart Byfield. Originally from England, the couple lived in Switzerland years ago and worked in the international school system. They went back home to be with family in 2005, but always knew they wanted to return.
They did return in 2010. Flash forward to now, where the couple lives in a farmhouse in Gubel with their three sons, ages 13, 9 and 4. Both are still in education, Nikki as a parttime elementary teacher, while Stuart is currently in administration at an international school. Last year they found the right spot in downtown Menzingen to make their dream a reality.
“I always wanted to own a craft shop, with a tea room connected. We wanted to integrate and get to know Swiss people.” While they appreciate and enjoy the expat community and circle of friends they’ve built over the years, Nikki felt it especially important to be in the area and get to know the locals.  “We wanted to come back to the same area where we lived before having children.”
They have spent a good year getting the one time Apothecary remodeled, doing all the work themselves, except for plumbing and electricity. While Nikki handles the shop and its logistics, Stuart makes sure the website is updated and humming along. Their labor of love seems to be paying off. On the snowy afternoon I showed up, the door was constantly opening with people coming in to chat, make purchases and also work in the hobby area.
Split into two areas, Something Different offers a cozy welcome for visitors, artists and craft enthusiasts. On the left is the Hobby Room with worktables, stools and plenty of supplies for anyone wanting to get creative and also serves as an area for workshops and classes. On the right hand side of the shop that extends into a back room, there is a large variety of art on display. With everything from jewelry and clothing to prints, candles and hand carved wooden accessories; you can find unique and original pieces by Swiss and expat artists. They rent spaces to display their work and also lend a hand by working in the store.
Michelle Coblentz is one of the featured artists at Something Different. Michelle creates vibrant fabric accessories as well as clothing, all upcycled from pieces no longer used in their original context. Her adorable Renewed skirts and ties are clever and colorful. “I love coming into the shop. Not only do I get to work on my pieces here, but I also get to work with other artists. It’s great to share ideas and practice my German with the Swiss,” she says enthusiastically.
And while it may take time for the locals to embrace the concept, the Byfields hope to bring everyone together in one space. “We are all people and not so different. In the future, I’d love to hear a mixture of both languages when I’m in the shop. If everybody’s making things and being creative then it breaks down the communication barrier a little more,” says Nikki with a big grin.
To discover Something Different, visit There you’ll find information on featured artists as well as upcoming events and workshops. And if you’re looking to offer your own work or talents, they want to hear from you.
Tel: 078 638 1916
Address: Hauptstrasse 2, 6313 Menzingen, Switzerland

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