Bringing Nordic flavors to Florida

Willy’s Products offers traditional food items in Fort Lauderdale and beyond

Photo courtesy of Willy’s Products
Joe DeArmas (left) and Willy Hansen share the tastes of Scandinavia through Willy’s Products Scandinavian Food Store, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor

Scandinavian stores are near and dear to my heart, and today I’m glad to highlight Willy’s Products, a trusted supplier of traditional food items and supplies to the Scandinavian-American community.

Local customers can browse the store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but their products are also available on their website and shipped nationwide.

Joe DeArmas has worked with founder Willy Hansen since the early 1990s, and took over in 2016. I spoke with DeArmas to learn more about the store and its specialties.

“The most popular items we sell are fenelår [cured leg of lamb] and pinnekjøtt [dried lamb ribs], which we make in-house in our USDA-approved kitchen. We also sell Greenland shrimp, and I think we are one of the only places in the United States that sell the shrimp,” said DeArmas.

Willy’s Products also makes its own sylterull [rolled pork belly], pølser [sausages], medisterkaker [pork meatballs] and more. They import different cheeses, dry goods, condiments, jams and preserves, flat breads, and lots of candies and chocolates.

“We focus on what we do best: We sell traditional Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish items for special meals, especially Christmas,” added DeArmas.

Willy’s Products, like many Scandinavian stores, is busier in the fall, leading up to the holiday season.

When I asked about how their business has been affected by coronavirus, DeArmas said: “The biggest challenge for us is to keep enough stock. Because we make things here that take some time, like fenelår, I have to figure out how much lamb I need, and those supply chains have been interrupted by coronavirus. That said, business has been better for us than in previous years, so we appreciate that!”

If you live outside of the Fort Lauderdale area, orders can be placed online at scandinavianfoodstore.com or by phone at (954) 316-1350.

With their signature dishes that are made in-house, I wanted to learn more about the man behind the label, Willy Hansen. Hansen happened to stop by the store when I was on the phone with DeArmas, so I was able to talk with him, too.

Hansen was born and raised just outside of Harstad, in the far north of Norway. He went on to open a deli in Sandefjord, southwest of Oslo, but Hansen’s quest for adventure led him to leave Norway to explore the world, and he became the chief steward of the SS Norway.

On the SS Norway, he created unforgettable dining experiences for the cruise ship passengers, using high-quality ingredients and inspired by traditional Norwegian recipes. He eventually landed in Miami.

“When I came to the United States in 1987, I needed something to do. So I started to import fresh Norwegian salmon, which hadn’t been done before. I drove around to restaurants and hotels with a truck, and offered them Norwegian salmon. I didn’t take presales or call-ahead orders, and within three hours I’d be sold out,” said Hansen.

Once Norwegian salmon began to be farmed, Hansen changed tack to open a Scandinavian food store, with specialty items made in-house.

It’s been through several iterations since then, but in 2008, he opened Willy’s Products.

Willy’s Products offers a wonderful range of Scandinavian food items for retail and wholesale customers and is a supplier for Norwegian consulates, Norwegian Seamen’s Churches, cruise lines, the Norway Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, Sons of Norway lodges, Høstfest in Minot, N.D., and more.

Willy’s Products brings the authentic tastes of home to so many people in the Scandinavian-American community, from favorite candies to traditional holiday dishes.

Willy’s Products Scandinavian Food Store is open to the public: 637 NW 38th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311. Willy’s also ships in the continental U.S., and certain restrictions apply. More information is available on their website.

For more info:

Know of a Scandinavian food maker for us to feature? Write to us: food@na-weekly.com.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 4, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email: naw@na-weekly.com

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