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Business / End of an era – Katja’s Cakes closes down

ONE OF Shetland most popular and unique food and drink businesses has closed for good after the owner moved back to Germany for personal reasons.

Katja Stübiger and her Unkenwagen back in 2018. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

During the 15 years Katja Stübiger has lived in the isles she grew her German cakes venture from a small stall at the Tingwall farmers’ market to later include the legendary Unkenwagen and her popular Katja’s Cakes café at Sumburgh Lighthouse.

She looks back at her time in Shetland as a brilliant experience and says she is grateful for all the support she has received over the years.

But a combination of reasons, some personal and some health related, has now led to the closure of the business.

Describing herself as a “perfectionist” who has been doing all the baking herself in addition to running the Sumburgh Head café and, when time allowed, offering first-class coffees and homebakes over the counter of her quirky Unkenwagen, she says she feels upset having to give it all up.

Stübiger had already stopped running the café back in July last year due to a shoulder problem. Then, later in autumn, she had to tell disappointed customers that “due to ongoing shoulder related health issues and family commitments in Germany”, there would be “unfortunately” none of her Christmas Stollen.

“As much as I felt it was overwhelming and far too much work, at the same time I really enjoyed doing it,” she describes her 15 years running a business that, over time had become something like a local institution and was very much associated with her name.

“I was working 15/16 hours every day, and it was just too much,” she continues. “I needed to do something, as I was not physically and mentally able to carry on.

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“The team at the café at Sumburgh Lighthouse were absolutely brilliant people, and it was very enjoyable.

“It’s a magic spot, I loved it, and I am grateful for the chance I had to do this.”

Now back in Berlin, where she used to live before moving to Shetland, she is enjoying a much-needed rest and has started thinking of what to do with the various elements of her business.

Cafe with a view: Katja Stübiger at the Sumburgh Head cafe. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

She is hopeful that someone will be found to take on the Shetland Amenity Trust lease for Sumburgh Lighthouse this summer and, ideally, is willing to buy all the equipment off her.

She also has a large and fully fitted professional bakery space at Garthspool in Lerwick that someone with a food business might be prepared to take on.

Finally, there is the Unkenbus, “her little baby” as he calls the converted minibus, that for years has drawn in the crowds at North Lochside. Ideally, she would like to find a space for storage until she has made up her mind what to do.

So, it is a moment of mixed emotions – a feeling of sadness that an era has come to an end, and being grateful for what has been achieved.

“I couldn’t have done the same thing in a big city like Berlin,” she reflects, “and I am really grateful that I got the chance to do all this.

“It was a massive learning curve for me, and over all these years local people have been absolutely wonderful and supportive.”

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