Something for all
By Christy Olsen Field
This year, Scandinavian Specialties in Seattle, Wash., is celebrating 50 years of business. The store has been a fixture in the traditionally Scandinavian neighborhood of Ballard since 1962, and it is the go-to place for the local Scandinavian community to find food, gifts and items with a Scandinavian connection.
In honor of this milestone anniversary, Scandinavian Specialties is hosting a year-long sale with a different focus every month.
“We don’t do sales often, so it’s a nice way for us to give our customers something special,” said Bjorn Ruud, manager of the store.
As the only Scandinavian store in Ballard, Scandinavian Specialties draws people from all over the region in search of Scandinavian items and foodstuffs. The store focuses on Scandinavian traditions as well as contemporary design in its gift section. In terms of food, their welcoming cafe is a cozy place for lunch or a coffee break with friends, and the extensive grocery section offers a wide variety of special Scandinavian items that are hard to find in the U.S.
Scandinavian Specialties was founded in 1962 as the Norwegian Sausage Company by Mr. Sagland with the goal of bringing its customers the finest quality Scandinavian foods. Sagland was a master butcher trained in Oslo, and equipment was brought over from Norway to make all the sausages, etc. Mr. Sagland retired in 1980 and the store was purchased by Ruby and Herb Anderson who continued to make the highest quality Scandinavian foods available to the Scandinavian community in Seattle. The Andersons expanded the the product line and added the mail order business which opened up the company’s line of Scandinavian Foods and Imports to the entire U.S.
In September 2000, the Andersons retired and the store was purchased by Anne-Lise Berger and Ozzie Kvithammer. The couple owned a Scandinavian wholesale company called ScanSelect, and expanding to a Scandinavian retail store made sense as the next step for their business. They moved Scandinavian Specialties into a larger space, nearly quadrupling the retail space and expanding its offerings for a larger customer base. Today, Berger’s son Bjorn Ruud manages the day-to-day operations of the store and their website customers come from all over the country.
Just as it did in the early days, Scandinavian Specialties still offers fresh sausages, meats, sandwiches and baked goods. Their welcoming cafe is a cozy place for lunch or coffee break with friends, and it’s a popular gathering place for people.
When asked about their most popular item, Ruud immediately replied: “Fishcakes. They are made in-house, and they are very popular. When we have fresh fish days, we have so many people calling in to see if fishcakes will be available. We have quite a following!”
Scandinavian Specialties is more than food – their gift items have something for every Scandinavian. Near a wall full of windows, special gift items of Kongetinn pewter, crystal, glassware and china sparkle. An impressive selection of sweaters is in the center of the store, and a wide variety of items for the kitchen, decor, clothing and gifts for every taste and budget. Their book nook features local authors and Scandinavian authors on a wide variety of topics.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Scandinavian Specialties is their commitment to customers. Their cheerful staff is ready to help with a smile, and their loyal customer base comes back again and again for the neighborhood atmosphere.
“What’s great about Scandinavian Specialties is that we have all the heritage items that people don’t know about all in one place. We have a lot of younger people who come in and connect with what’s here, and Scandinavian expats come by and like it. It’s a slice of old Scandinavia delivered here in Seattle,” said Ruud.
With 50 years of history, Scandinavian Specialties keeps up the Nordic heritage of the neighborhood by celebrating traditions and the best of Scandinavia today.
Scandinavian Specialties is located at 6719 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. For more information, call (206) 784-7020 or toll-free (877) 784-7020. Visit www.scanspecialties.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 20, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.