Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Marketplace: Still going strong after 85 years

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The smell of cinnamon candles and meatball mix wafts into the nostrils, while the sound of soothing holiday music soars. Customers stroll through Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Marketplace searching for the perfect Christmas gifts for their loved-ones.

Located on East Lake Street, Ingebretsen’s has stayed in business for more than 85 years. It is the oldest Scandinavian retail store in the Twin Cities, according to Julie Ingebretsen, manager and granddaughter of the store’s founder.

“We have a very loyal clientele,” adds Ingebretsen.

Elsa, who was raised in Norway, is in the store on the day after Thanksgiving. She has shopped at Ingebretsen’s for fifteen years. She continues to come back for her favorite, the chocolates.

After Thanksgiving, the store gets so crowded that people are lining up around the corner. One day during a previous year’s holiday season, a woman’s husband fainted in the busy line, recalls Amy, a cashier at Ingebretsen’s for ten years. The man was taken to the hospital, but he didn’t allow his wife to leave with him in the ambulance. She continued to wait in line.
If she had not succeeded in buying the meatballs, he would have been very upset.

“Scandinavians go nuts for Christmas,” said Amy.

Customers come from all over the world, especially during the holiday season, to get their hands on the hodgepodge of goods. Scandinavian clothing, jewelry, books, music, toys, and handmade crafts fill the shelves of the gift shop. Breads, cheeses, chocolates, cookies, franks, meatballs, Swedish pea soup and other traditional foods pack the market with fresh aromas.

The marketplace aims to help people understand their heritage. Ingebretsen said she is very traditional and wants to teach others, especially the young, about the Scandinavian culture. In order to do this, she schedules needlework classes and book signings with authors like Deb Nelson Gourley. Gourley also was there on the day after Thanksgiving, wearing a traditional Norwegian garment called a bunid and talking about her common interest in promoting the heritage and culture.

Ryan Zickermann is a student at the University of Minnesota and an intern at the TC Daily Planet.

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