A little bit of southern Scandinavia

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By Jane Bartnett

This is a Norwegian troll alert!

Those magical, mischievous Nordic creatures that Disney made famous far beyond the shores of Scandinavia and Siesta Key have found their way to Gulf Gate. Be advised that they are sitting jauntily on the shelves of the Scandinavian Gifts, Baked Goods & Grocery store on Gulf Gate Drive, waiting to head off to a new home. Trolls, along with their Swedish mythical elf friends, have made themselves quite comfortable in this little bit of southern Scandinavia.  

In the land of the midnight sun, according to Nordic mythology, Norwegian trolls share the land with friendly elves called Nissers. The Swedes call their elves Tomtes and in Finland they are known as Tonttus. No matter if you’re drawn to the homely troll or the better-looking elves in their red caps, finding one in this captivating store will surely brighten your day. 

My well-placed source Pam, who happens to be the owner of shop, told me that she has many troll-collector clients. “Troll collectors discovered us a long time ago,” she said with a laugh. “A troll collector recently purchased two motorcycle riding trolls.” 

Yes, it seems that trolls can find themselves in all kinds of situations.  

In addition to trolls and elves, Pam told me that another popular folkloric item in great demand is the Swedish Dala Horse figures and items that are adorned with them. “They are very special to Swedish people,” she said.  

A symbol of good luck in Sweden, the horses are also the most internationally recognized image in Swedish folk art.

As I made my way through the charming shop that is deceptively larger than it appears from the Gulf Gate Drive sidewalk, I found Pam behind the jewelry counter. She took out several pieces of amber jewelry to show me and explained that they are distinctively Scandinavian and reminiscent of ancient Viking jewelry. 

The Vikings, she explained, were especially fond of the golden amber stones. “Amber has been found in many Scandinavian archeological sites where the Vikings once lived,” she advised. “The amber washes up on the shores of the Baltic lands and much of it is very old.” 

She explained that amber is the product of fossilized tree sap. It is found on the beaches of southern Sweden, Denmark, and Latvia where 80% to 90% of the world’s amber is harvested. Once polished and cut, the amber is made into earrings, necklaces and bracelets. 

As we continued to chat about Scandinavia’s rich history, Pam told me that she and her husband first opened their Gulf Gate store 33 years ago after moving from upstate New York. Her parents owned two Scandinavian shops in Buffalo and Rochester, and Pam managed their Rochester store. When she and her husband decided to relocate to Sarasota, they opened their own Scandinavian store. 

“There’s something about Scandinavian designs and decorations that people find very appealing,” she said.  

When I asked about the extensive offerings of Scandinavian food that they carry along with the many gift items, Pam explained that soon after they arrived in Sarasota the couple joined local Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish clubs. “It was fun to share the traditions of these Nordic countries’ foods,” she recalled. “So, we decided to offer frozen, dry, bottled and canned foods from Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Denmark. I do have some Norwegian in my family.” 

When I asked Pam what is their best-selling food item, her immediate reply was “Kringles of course.”

Shipped frozen from the O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, Wisconsin, the flaky and delicious kringle is offered in 13 wonderful flavors: almond, apple, almond macaroon, blueberry, cherry, cherry cheese, chocolate, cinnamon roll, cream cheese, and turtle (chocolate and caramel or birthday, filled with raspberry and vanilla custard).

To support the many bakers who enjoy creating their own delicacies, Pam has carefully curated a tempting collection of special tins, Swedish rolling pins, cookbooks and other very useful and colorful kitchen items. There’s even a smiling Norwegian troll decked out in a white apron and chef’s hat.

As I continued to wander around the store, I discovered another of Pam’s special touches: glimmering Orrefors and Kosta Boda crystal from Sweden, colorful Arabia Finnish china, Marimekko designs, and small colorful wooden Swedish birds that were once featured in Martha Stewart’s magazine. On the other side of the store there were Scandinavian woolen socks, hats and sweaters ready to hit the slopes in style.

A charming children’s corner is filled with books, toys and Scandinavian items to delight young Vikings. 

The annual after-Christmas sale that began the day after Christmas will run through the month of January. Every item in the store is 15% off. 

Discover this shop known as “America’s largest and most complete Scandinavian Gift Shop in the South” at 2166 Gulf Gate Drive. Call (941) 923-4313 or shop online at Scandinavian-South.com. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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