Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A bit of Sweden in Wisconsin October 26, 2011

J. Ingebretsen's av Stockholm on a corner in Stockholm.

STEP INSIDE J. Ingebretsen’s av Stockholm along Wisconsin Highway 35 in Stockholm, Wisconsin, population 89, and a sense of serenity sweeps over you.

Perhaps it’s the Scandinavian influence. Or perhaps it’s the charm of this quaint Lake Pepin-side village casting a spell upon you that evokes a feeling of peace.

The sign suspended from the front of Ingebretsen's, if I got the translation correct, means "crafts." The dala horse is a popular Swedish symbol.

No matter the reason, the atmosphere inside Ingebretsen’s, a Scandinavian gift shop, conveys a sense of orderliness, simplicity and a feeling that all is right with the world, or at least in this part of western Wisconsin.

On a recent day trip from Minnesota across the Mississippi River, my husband and I discovered this wisp of a village, which, except for all those inviting shops lining the main drag and side streets, would likely stand as another shuttered small town.

But Stockholm hums with activity, its streets packed with vehicles, its sidewalks teeming with folks drawn here by the quaintness, the laid-back feel of this historic place, the smorgasbord of shops that range from precisely orderly Ingebretsen’s to cluttered, books-tilting Chandler’s Books, Curios.

Step inside Ingebretsen’s, an offshoot of the main store in Minneapolis, and you’ll forget the traffic only steps away along Highway 35. You’ll focus instead on the display of dala horses. You’ll draw your hand across woolen blankets that ward off the chill of autumn, soon-to-be winter. Your eyes will turn toward the earthen-hued pottery lining shelves.

Inside the front window of Ingebretsen's, lovely pottery.

A collection of dala horses inside Ingebretsen's, a traditional symbol of Sweden. As the story goes, woodcutters from the province of Dalarna whittled away the long winter months carving these toy horses for children.

Even the pleasant shopkeeper with her crisp apron and refined demeanor fit my image of a Scandinavian. I immediately fell in love with the rough stone that defines this historic building.

You’ll admire the rough stone walls of this 1878 building, first used as a general store, then as a hotel, hardware store, confectionary, barbershop, speakeasy and café. Before it was abandoned and then reborn several years later, in 2003, as this Scandinavian import shop in Stockholm.

Wisconsin. Not Sweden.

The upper level of the restored Ingebretsen's building.

It's all about the details in Stockholm, like this clutch of flowers hugging stone at Ingebretsen's.

PLEASE READ my previous post published October 24 on Chandler’s Books and watch for more stories from Stockholm.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “A bit of Sweden in Wisconsin”

  1. This looks like a wonderful place to visit. Population 89? Wow. Lovely pictures!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, honestly, population of 89. It’s just the most charming place and is actually nationally-known as a get-away. We didn’t plan enough time in Stockholm and will need to return. We missed out on the pie at the pie shop because we had eaten a big lunch in a nearby town across the border in Minnesota. People were standing in line waiting for pie. More photos to come…

  2. My daughter plays with a dala horse. I assumed it was Mexican. It looks so much like the Mexican Import style we find in our region!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Now that IS interesting. A Swedish horse from Mexico? Or a Mexican version of the Swedish dala horse?

  3. That looks like a fabulous store. I love, love, love Swedish shops. That’s one MN thing I’ve accepted without any difficulty. I’ve been to the Ingebretsons in Minneapolis – in fact, my husband’s cousin’s husband’s mother (did you get that?!!!) is the buyer for the store. She gets to go on lovely shopping trips to Stockholm…Sweden…not Wisconsin!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I slowed down and read that carefully several times–cousin’s husband’s, oh whatever. Small world, huh?

      I would highly-recommend a drive over to Stockholm, Wisconsin. Leave the kids behind and make it a get-away with your spouse. (The kids would be bored.) We could easily have spent most of a day here. We’ll be back.

      • Good advice – it sounds wonderful. And I love the walls in that building – how wonderful!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Yes, love those stone walls.

        If you’ve never been to Faribault, consider a visit here sometime, too. We have lots of lovely stone buildings– churches, homes, schools, businesses…

  4. Virginia Updegrove Says:

    Two years ago I went to Sweden to see where my grandmother came from. Visiting with a Swedish cousin we traveled all over. On one of our day trips a Swedish fellow spoke to me with, “you’re from America, right”? He then told me that he had come to Wisconsin with a coral group and visited a small Swedish town that I must come and visit. Today I’ve searched it out. Yes, I must come visit.

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