Work & Business
Scandinavian Butik Caters to Connecticut Customers and BeyondJuly 19, 2017
Doris Levene and Marianne Beresford felt sure their Connecticut shop Scandinavian Butik would have a following, but they never thought it would become a destination for out-of-state shoppers.
“It has grown into something we didn’t anticipate in the beginning,” Beresford said. “People find us when they need us.”
The cozy shop with a café sits next to a gas station off the busy Merritt Parkway in Norwalk, Conn.
“A lot of people will get off the parkway to get gas and see our store and walk over,” Beresford said. “People that didn’t even know we were here pop in and find us.”
The two friends, originally from different regions in Denmark, started the business in December 2010 with no background in retail. Levene was a nurse and Beresford a teacher. After conducting a great deal of research, they found a store in the area that was up for sale. They submitted a bid but the deal fell through.
“So, we decided we would open our own store,” Beresford said. “Every single day we learn something new.”
Scandinavian Butik carries an eclectic mix of gifts, candy and food from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland as well as a small number of items (mostly chocolate) from Iceland. The majority of the merchandise is Danish and Swedish.
Many items in the store such as cheeses, meats, herring, breads, condiments and baking needs are items used in Scandinavian cooking. Levene and Beresford bake some of the breads as well as the Swedish cinnamon rolls sold in the store. They also make the Swedish meatballs and liver pate.
Beresford came up with the idea of opening a café inside the shop after customers began asking if the shop made and sold sandwiches.
“When we moved to this location from our original location, we set aside space for a café,” she said.
A long community table in the shop accommodates 10 diners who can choose from a variety of open-face Danish sandwiches.
“Our sandwiches are made from all the things we have or produce in the store,” Beresford said.
One of the shop’s busiest times of the year is the Christmas season. Levene and Beresford start recruiting extra staff in September and October to prepare for the rush.
“At Christmas, our line is back to the door,” Levene said.
She and Beresford spent time baking traditional cookies and other delicacies specifically for Christmas for their customers.
“We have everything you need for the holidays so you can have traditional Scandinavian holidays,” Levene said. “We want to keep the tradition going.”
Internet sales increase during the holidays when, according to Levene, people are looking for Christmas foods their grandparents served.
Big holiday sellers include holiday meats, hams, roasts and flatbreads. Other popular items include candy, liver pate, remoulade and Danish relish.
“It’s all about nostalgia,” Leven said. “They look for stores that sell those items and we come up.”
Customers tell Levene and Beresford that shopping in the store is like “being home,” Beresford said.
By speaking the language and listening and comforting, Levene and Beresford have forged close relationships with their customers.
That’s what fuels their enthusiasm.
“It’s a community that is really close and fun to work with,” Beresford said. “We get hugs and kisses from them. That is something we didn’t anticipate when we started and it’s one of our biggest joys.”
Scandinavian Butik is located at 349 Main Ave. in Norwalk, Conn. For more information, visit its website or call 203.529.3244.