If you’ve dreamed of traveling to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden but have never gone – forget your passport, and try this instead.
Ingebretsen’s is a Nordic marketplace for gifts, foods, crafts and, in better times, classes. Their fourth generation, family-owned business at 1601 East Lake St. has goods for the home with Scandinavian charm and legacy craftsmanship built in to every product.
Co-owner Julie Ingebretsen said, “Ingebretsen’s was started by my Norwegian grandfather in 1921. This store stood on the outer edges of Minneapolis in its early days. Lake Street has always been the street where new immigrants got their feet on the ground, and then moved on. We joke and say that we forgot to move, but that isn’t true. We stayed because we love it here. My dad, who died 10 years ago, felt a strong loyalty to this neighborhood.”
Ingebretsen’s was a meat market and corner store until 1974, when Julie came on to board to run the gift shop conceived of by her dad and his business partner. The idea was that Julie would run the gift shop for a year or two, until she figured out what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said, “I was a college student watching the world fall apart. In some ways, it felt a lot like it does now except our crises were the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal.”
Shelves full of treasures
Forty-seven years have passed, and Julie is still running the gift store. The times may have changed, but Ingebretsen’s commitment to quality has not. Julie said, “There’s something timeless and uplifting about handmade, natural products made with excellent design. That’s the Scandinavian thing. Everything we sell is well-constructed and will last a long time; many of our items are also quite affordable.”
The cellulose dish clothes from Sweden are one example. Priced at $7, they come in a variety of folk art patterns. Julie said, “The dish clothes are hard-working and when they finally are spent, you can toss them in the compost bin because they’re made of natural wood fibers.”
There are greeting cards, calendars, and an array of Scandinavian cooking aids from cookie cutters to natural bristle brushes, rolling pins, hot pads, and hand carved spoons.
Concern for the environment drives the gift store’s inventory. Consider the taper candles sold at Ingebretsen’s; they are made from stearin, which is plant-based and clean burning. They have cotton wicks, and are scent free. According to Green America, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally aware, ethical consumerism, most candles on the market today are made from paraffin – a by-product of petroleum waste.
There are several earth-friendly gifts available at Ingebretsen’s including Bio Snap Boxes for food storage, re-usable Bio Straws, and Bio Sporks (a spoon-fork combo for people who choose not to use disposible items).
Family roots run deep
Julie’s daughter Anna Bloomstrand is the store’s creative consultant and resident artist. Along with her cousin Gus, Anna represents the fourth generation committed to carrying Ingebretsen’s into the future.
Julie explained, “I was a busy working mom when Anna was born in 1978. I needed to be at the store hands-free, so I often put Anna in a cardboard box. Eventually we gave her some crayons to play with. She entertained herself for hours, and eventually went on to have a successful career as an artist.”
What makes a store more than just a store?
The family ethos, as well as the environmental ethos, is neatly woven into all things at Ingebretsen’s. Anna explained, “There’s an interesting piece that my Mom doesn’t talk about. She is a classic Scandinavian with a quiet personality, but she has cultivated a very broad network. It starts with our family and our Nordic cultural heritage, but it goes much farther out into the community.
“What people connect with in our store, whether consciously or unconsciously, is the depth, richness, and history of our business and our neighborhood. This is part of what makes our store so special.”
The gift store and craft store (two separate store fronts) have both recently been renovated.
Anna dug into the first renovation when the lockdown started. She said, “We thought we might be closed for a long time, so we took advantage of the quiet. I was often there by myself, which gave me a lot of time to think about the generations of my family, and the many ups and downs Lake Street has experienced. This gave me needed perspective as the events of 2020 continued to unwind. Our family has lived through hard times before, and our store is still here.”
The first renovation was just about done when Ingebretsen’s was looted on May 27. Julie said, “We came in at 6 a.m. the next morning, and our store was in shambles. May 28 was one of the most impactful days of my life, but the good of the day turned out to be so much bigger than the bad. I’ll never forget all the people who came out to help our neighborhood businesses clean up.
“The looting was extensive, but we had good insurance and were able to reopen in September. In many ways, we consider ourselves lucky.”
Understanding the why
Anna said, “We don’t think there is one explanation for why so many Lake Street businesses were destroyed. There were thousands of people who may have had thousands of motives. We’re working to stay connected to the why of what happened, and what we can all do better in the world.
“Our store has been broken into a few times over the years, and there was always an icky feeling in the building afterwards. The uprising was different though. It was more like a storm moving through the neighborhood. Understanding the bigger picture made it easier to not take the looting personally, and it was immediately clear what our role should be moving forward.”
Ingebretsen’s is 100 years old this year. There will not be a big bash like there would have been in different times. Anna explained, “There are four businesses on our block all run by families. The details of our businesses and the times we arrived are different, but in spirit we’re all the same. Our store is up and running again, but not everyone has been so lucky.”
In it together
She continued, “Hopefully we’ll celebrate our 101st anniversary in person next year. In 2022, there will be plenty of cause to celebrate the rebirth of the Lake Street corridor. We’ll look forward to celebrating with our community. We’re always in this together. No exceptions.”
Visit www.ingebretsens.com for store details and to shop the online catalogue. Or, call 612.729.9333.