A family tradition

Ingebretsen's is located on Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Ingebretsen's is located on East Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Ingebretsen’s marks 90 years of business in Minneapolis, Minn.

This year, Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts turns 90. “Uff da!” They declare on their website.

But the birthday celebration this iconic store is putting on is anything but “uff da.” Beginning in October, Ingebretsen’s will celebrate with a series of fun events that continue all the way into December.

Located in Minneapolis, Minn., Ingebretsen’s was opened in 1921 by Charles (Karl) Ingebretsen Sr. on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. It was known first as the Model Meat Market, as Ingebretsen had been trained as a butcher in Fargo, N.D., soon after emigrating from Norway in the early 1900s. Some would be surprised to hear that the store, which features a whole manner of books, china, and gifts, started out exclusively as a meat market!

Gradually, inventory shifted to include more Scandinavian items.  With renewed interest in Scandinavian heritage blossoming in the 1960s and 1970s, this seemed like a good time to expand the Meat Market’s offerings, so the family changed the business’s name to Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Center and opened a gift shop.

Julie Ingebretsen, granddaughter of Charles Ingebretsen, took over the fledgling gift shop part of the store. A job that she thought would only last for a few years turned into 37! She remains manager at the store to this day, continuing an impressive family tradition.

Though the gift section of the store is a great draw for customers, Ingebretsen maintains the significance of the meat counter. “The most important thing is the stuff we make here,” she says. This includes all kinds of Scandinavian delicacies: Rullepølse, pinnekjøtt, and Swedish meatballs, to name a few. They also carry a large selection of breads, cheeses, jams and candy.  “Food is kind of the main way for people to connect to their heritage,” says Ingebretsen. The store’s variety of imported foods, traditional fare, and even cooking classes offered in lefse baking and kransekake making (among others) support this assertion.

Perhaps the importance of food to heritage is what inspired one of the “main events” of Ingebetsen’s 90th birthday celebration. This particularly exciting and delicious anniversary event is called “Taste of the Times” and will take place each Saturday beginning October 1st and ending on the anniversary day itself, November 26th.  “Taste of the Times” will offer samples and recipes of foods that were popular in a different decade, beginning with the 1920s and lefse. Throughout the decades, it will feature foods like spam, jello, lutefisk, hot dish, cakes and coffee. The event is inspired by, “Partly a history of the store and the neighborhood, and partly recipes,” Ingebretsen says.  “It’s been fun.”

Ingebretsen’s is no doubt a mainstay of the Scandinavian community in the Twin Cities, and the Midwest in general. Lines still stretch all the way outside the door as Christmas approaches and folks flock to purchase traditional Christmas fare. “We get new people in the store everyday,” says Ingebretsen. “We don’t know how they find us, but they do.”

Head over to 1601 E. Lake Street in Minneapolis to pay a visit to Ingebretsen’s. You can also visit their website at www.ingebretsens.com.

This article is part of our new series titled “Scandinavian Store Spotlight.” Would you like your favorite store to be highlighted? Call us at (800) 305-0217 or email naw@norway.com.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 14, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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