When Nordic Nook founder Patrice Roe announced on Facebook on Jan. 19 that the company was for sale, she was “just floored by the response” and had no idea how much reach Facebook could have.
“A lot of people said they didn’t want to lose the shop,” she said. “There was a lot of reaction, it was really nice.”
People returned to the Scandinavian Gift Shop who hadn’t been there in years or only been there when they were kids.
When Marci Swigart Kadlec came to visit the building, at first it was all she and her husband Erik were interested in. Besides the commercial space on the ground floor, there are also two apartments upstairs.
But after visiting the store – which sells Nordic and Scandinavian books, jewelry, snacks, candy, hats, mittens, socks, sweaters, tea towels, trolls, gnomes, glassware, rosemary and artwork – Kadlec decided she could run the store, as well, with the help of her daughter Ashlee Dickinson.
The same weekend they filmed, they made Roe an offer and she accepted.
“It was a slam, bam done deal,” Roe said.
Roe and her husband grew up in Stoughton, but after high school they did not return for many years. Roe lived in New York for a time, lobbying at the state level and running a ballet studio. Then they moved to Minnesota, where they had their children.
Despite being 300 miles away, Roe wanted to open a “Scandinavian-only” store in her hometown. She felt like it was something Stoughton lacked.
Growing up, stores such as The Stationery House or Trollhus & Yarn Nook offered Norwegian-themed merchandise, but that was never the sole focus of these stores.
When Roe opened her shop in 2002, it was actually across the street from its current location at 176 W. Main St. But she quickly outgrew that space, having filled every nook and cranny she said.
The wooden interior of its current location is meant to resemble a Norwegian Viking ship. The space had been the Norse Chalet in the 1950s-60s, said Roe, which was a deli, restaurant and gift shop.
Living so far from the store, Roe needed someone she could trust to run it, and who better than her mother, Ardis Gyland.
“For her, it was a dream,” Roe said. “She loved this shop and spoke to everyone and anyone. She loved being here talking to people or julebukking singing and keeping people company.
His mother was particularly good at getting people to buy Gløgg at tastings, a spicy fruity drink usually served during winter holidays.
“She would sit and sell Gløgg to everyone, I would let people know as soon as they came in,” Roe said.
Roe came over from Minnesota every few weeks to check things out until he finally returned to the area.
One of his best-selling items was his wool sweaters, like those from the Dale of Norway brand. She is believed to have sold thousands of sweaters over her two decades. Many people buy sweaters only for special dinners from lutefisk.
Every Christmas she chose a sweater for herself – and now she has her own 20 traditional Norwegian sweaters.
But despite what she will lose, she knows what the store will gain with her retirement as she recalls one time when she served on a board of directors in New York for a long time and when a younger member joined and had lots of ideas. Roe said she despised them because she had already tried them all. That’s when she knew she had to step down from the board, and she feels the same way now.
“I didn’t realize until I saw their enthusiasm that it was time,” Roe said. “They must be excited about it, they’re standing on a cliff about to jump off.”
And for Roe, retiring last month wasn’t so much about the impact COVID-19 had on the business, or even his personal life, as it claimed his mother’s life in December 2020.
Her husband’s recent retirement also helped encourage her decision and she pointed out that she had graduated from high school with the owners of the Nauti Norske, who had also recently retired.
“It’s true that there have been challenges in recent years, but everyone has supported me – there are a lot of people who have supported me. It just seems like it’s time,” Roe said. “Twenty years seems like a nice number. It was a wild ride.
Although she jokes that “uff da” should have been 2020’s word of the year. The store’s Uff Da sweaters have always been a bestseller.
Roe wasn’t alone among the people who traveled to her Nook.
A guest registry she kept over the years eventually garnered signatures from across the country, and she not only shipped her store’s products to all 50 states, but around the world – to Ireland, Italy and the Middle East.
“We’re a destination store,” Roe said. “People come from all over the country, they know us.”
It was not just Roe’s mother who was a familiar face at the shop, but also his father, who during Syttende Mai would sit up front to play the musical saw, sometimes accompanied by hardanger fiddles.
“He was like the Pied Piper,” Roe said. “He loved his artist schtick, he drew people in, it was always a fun time.”
The store has even gained local and international television fame. Once, a local weatherman did a live broadcast in one of the “Uff Da” sweatshirts Nook was known for. When the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation was visiting Stoughton, they interviewed his father about his singing saw.
“They were doing a program about how people celebrated Norwegian heritage and they stopped in the Twin Cities, Seattle, Brooklyn… and Stoughton,” Roe said. “They showed it all over Norway and I got calls from my relatives there. Norwegians know us.
But the store appealed to people whether they were Nordic or not, Roe said.
“There were so many amazing stories of people coming in,” she said. “Some people came with memories of their grandmother, others with all this pride, ‘I just had my ancestors done and I’m so Norwegian.'”
But many people who don’t have Norse ancestry still assimilate into the culture once they move to Stoughton, and the Viking spirit can overtake people through osmosis – where adults learn to make krumkake and the children become Norwegian dancers.
Roe herself has ties to Norway and travels there several times a year to stock up on goods for her store and to visit her family. Whether she travels there so often now without having the store as an excuse to go is still up in the air.
This is the second time in two years that the Kadlecs have taken over a business on Main Street in Stoughton as the new owners of Nordic Nook.
After nearly 65 years in business, Slinde’s Interior on Main Street closed on July 1, 2020, and just five days later the Kadlecs opened Walgenmeyer’s Carpet and Tile in its place.
Dickinson is a single mother who drives a bus for the Oregon school district, while the Kadlecs live in Madison.
Although they are not from Stoughton, they said it was still “so sad” to hear of Roe’s retirement and that the takeover of the business “sort of went through”.
Now the mother-daughter team said they were “having way too much fun” in the first few weeks of this joint effort, especially sitting down with Roe and browsing catalogs as she helped point out ideas of things to buy.
“They have things to learn,” Roe said, like ordering special, affordable little items that Norwegian dancers will take to their host families on their annual spring trip.
“Housewarming gifts should be gender-neutral, between $30 and $40, such as food baskets, velkommen wall hangings, washcloths, or jelly,” she explained. “It’s a gift for where they’re staying.”
Kadlec will continue to offer much of the same inventory, while introducing new items. For example, while Roe had always sold fiskeboller or fish balls, Kadlec introduced a few new flavors like dill.
And the shop can be a resource for harder-to-find items, like a seamstress for a dance troupe who recently came looking for pewter buttons for sewing.
For the most part, the store will look the same for all long-time customers. Other than having the back of the shop repainted, not much has changed aesthetically with the new owners.
But the mother-daughter duo said they have plenty of ideas for the future. Roe kept a diary of things people had asked her to get over the years, or things she had tried at some point and people asked her to bring back.
“Between COVID and the shrinking retirement, the store was running low on inventory, but we’re rebuilding it,” Kadlec said.
She and Dickinson also discussed ideas for what to do with the unused space in the basement – which had been the Norse Chalet restaurant in the 1950s. They envision a future meeting place for classes or lessons like the rosemary or cooking.
“I’m sure some things you’ll look at here and say, ‘I wouldn’t do things that way and, in a few months, you won’t either,'” Kadlec told Roe.
“You have to find your own way,” Roe replied.
“Don’t leave me hanging around – if a question arises – please answer,” Kadlec asked Roe in return.