From gas station to waffle empire
Norway’s Waffle Queen is slowly but surely introducing her Nordic Waffles to the US
Stine Aasland, who grew up in Telemark, started her entrepreneur career in Norway at a young age. Now, at 35, not only has she become known as Norway’s Waffle Queen but has brought the cultural treat to the Midwestern United States through Nordic Waffles™.
When she was 17, Aasland moved to Oslo to study for the International Baccalaureate at Berg High School, which was taught in English. To pay for board and living expenses, she handled three jobs. Two years later in 2002, she dropped out of school. When she was 21, she invested in a gas station franchise in the chain Hydro Texaco, where she was working. “The Ullern gas station is on my way when I drive into Oslo,” she said.
She was unique then, a young woman among old men running gas stations.
Soon, she realized that the money makers were car washes and waffles. In her free time, she perfected a Norwegian waffle that, after a short while, became a popular product within the franchise. Waffles have been made in Norway since 1700, a tradition in the culture. Aasland developed a simple yet unique batter that many of her customers came to enjoy and request. Her waffles were different from others. She used premium ingredients, the best flour, milk, and butter.
At Norwegian gas station convenience stores, food is prepared fresh. After making and selling her waffles, she realized she was making more money selling waffles than any item in the store. Aasland decided to sell her gas station franchise. She was only 25 years old.
Aasland started a waffle factory in Stokke in Vestfold, with the name Telemarksrora. She had saved up the starting capital, and the bank gave her a loan with security in her house. She was confident she could “make it.”
Nordic waffles are thin, soft, heart-shaped, resemble the texture of a crepe, and can be served with both sweet and savory toppings. Aasland’s waffles come in different varieties, an all-day breakfast one with eggs, bacon, and cheddar cheese; a turkey crepe with bacon; Norwegian salmon, cream cheese, and onions; and a vegetarian waffle with a veggie patty, spring mix, and cheddar cheese. They also have a very traditional Norwegian variety of berries and cream. According to Aasland, the Norwegian waffles are the best in the world. The recipe is a trade secret.
In her cookbook, We Love Waffles, Aasland offers four recipes for Nordic waffles and 40 toppings. In 2010, she was named Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the Norwegian women’s magazine Henne (She). According to Aasland, the most important thing is butter and love.
After six years and 700 venues in Norway, Aasland wanted something more. She sold Telemarksrora and headed to California. For her, it was the American dream to move here and start a business. Eventually, she ended up in Minneapolis. By chance, she dropped in at Norway House. She was with her own people. A stint at the Center of Innovation at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks—headed by Bruce Gjovig, a great friend of Norway—provided the time for her to perfect and test her waffle batter and learn the lessons of American business.
The St. Paul-based company has two main business areas. One is to offer waffles and other programs to coffeehouses, convenience stores, ice cream shops and food service operators, which is supplied with equipment and batter. Throughout Minnesota, 54 locations—19 in Minneapolis-St. Paul—offer Nordic Waffles; with three in Wisconsin, nine in North Dakota, four in South Dakota. She has four employees.
The other focus is on making waffles at events, from graduation parties to weddings and fairs. Nordic Waffles was selected to serve waffles during Super Bowl week last Jan. 26 to Feb. 4. The waffles were served with traditional Nordic drinks of blueberry saft and gløgg.
“What better place than Minnesota’s bold north to introduce the Scandinavian tradition of enjoying delicious waffles at any time of day?” said Aasland at the time. “What better audience to be among the first to join our fast-growing ‘Waffle-lution™’ movement, which encourages Americans to adopt the Nordic tradition of taking time to savor the moment with ‘hygge,’ when enjoying simple and wholesome Scandinavian waffles.”
“I came here to do it big,” she said in a recent interview in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I left Norway because there are only 5.5 million people there. For me, the United States is a big opportunity.”
This article originally appeared in the November 30, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.