The Schöpflin family history begins in Haagen, which since 1974 has been a district of Lörrach in southern Germany. It was here that in 1907 Wilhelm and Wilhelmine Schöpflin opened a general store. In 1924, they boldly transformed the business into a textile wholesale company; and in 1930 they became pioneers of the mail-order business. In the beginning, their employees delivered parcels to the post office by handcart, and then later by horse and cart. Before the Second World War, the Schöpflin company employed around 900 people – and the Schöpflin sons, Hans and Rudolf, had also started to work in the family business. After the war and the period of occupation, the Schöpflin family began to further expand their business: during the so-called ‘economic miracle’ years, the Schöpflin catalogue could be found in most West German households. And in southern Germany the Schöpflin company also ran shopping centres. But the first economic problems began to emerge in the 1960s. In 1964, the Gustav Schickedanz family – and through them, the mail-order company, Quelle – acquired 74.9 percent of the shares in the Schöpflin company; and in 1982, they acquired the remainder of the shares. In 1999 Quelle closed its operation in Lörrach and dropped the Schöpflin brand name: thus, the Schöpflin mail order company was consigned to history.
The third generation of the family – namely Hans Schöpflin’s children – have gone their own separate ways and have never been involved in the Schöpflin company. Heidi Junghanss married and stayed in the area; the Schöpflin brothers, Hans and Albert, moved away. In the 1970s Hans Schöpflin became a successful manager and entrepreneur in the USA, in the first instance working alongside Sol Price. Price always combined economic success with social responsibility. This was a formative experience for Hans Schöpflin. Since 1982 he has been a successful venture capitalist, investing in young companies whose ideas he liked – a concept that he would later use in his work with the Schöpflin Foundation. When, in 1995, his son died of a drug overdose, Hans Schöpflin’s life once again took another turn: his philanthropic work led to the founding, in 1998, of the Panta Rhea Foundation in the USA and, in 2001, to the founding of the Schöpflin Foundation (in German – Schöpflin Stiftung) in Lörrach-Brombach in southern Germany.
At the beginning of the 1970s Albert Schöpflin also emigrated to the USA. Here – and then later in Hamburg – he worked in advertising and journalism as a photographer and cameraman. Then he too had a major change of direction after 25 years in a successful career: today he works as an artist, under the name of Scopin.
In 2001 the Schöpflin siblings incorporated their original family home – the former Lindenhof Residence in Lörrach-Brombach in southern Germany built in 1896 - into the Schöpflin Foundation. In 2002 in the main house – known as the Villa Schöpflin – they opened a centre for addiction prevention. As time went on, further buildings sprung up in the large, 10,000-square-meter picturesque garden. These include the Kinderhaus (or Children’s House) and the Gärtnerhaus (or Garden House); and the Werkraum Schöpflin. The Schöpflin Foundation – together with the Hamburg-based artist, Christoph Schäfer, and the diverse range of people living in the neighbourhood – is currently developing a 13,500 square-meter plot of land that lies opposite the main Schöpflin site, and is known as the FABRIC site. The idea here is to test out a new way of doing town planning.
All three of the Schöpflin siblings are today based in the Lörrach area and each is personally involved in the Foundation. In future, the name Schöpflin will be less synonymous with the mail-order business and more connected to striving for a different, more just form of human coexistence and economic activity.