Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge’s Norwegian specialty shop to close

Nordic Delicacies was open for nearly 30 years

January 6, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Nordic Delicacies owner Arlene Bakke Rutuelo (right) with Miss Norway contest winner Jillian McDonald in April, says she will remain active in Bay Ridge civic life. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

One of the last links to Bay Ridge’s Norwegian-American past will soon be no more.

Nordic Delicacies, a Third Avenue shop specializing in homemade Scandinavian dishes and imported goods, is closing its doors on Jan. 31, owner Arlene Bakke Rutuelo has confirmed.

“All good things have to end sometime and this is the right time,” Bakke Rutuelo told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Located at 6909 Third Ave., Nordic Delicacies opened nearly 30 years ago. The shop is a throwback to the era when Bay Ridge was home to tens of thousands of Norwegian-Americans. Shoppers can satisfy their taste buds with dishes such as fiskepudding (pudding with fish cakes), potato dumplings, meat cakes and kransekaker (almond cake), all of them homemade by Bakke Rutuelo and her mother, Helena Bakke.

Imported canned foods and Norwegian souvenirs, including flags and pins, line the store’s shelves.

Nordic Delicacies also serves as an unofficial headquarters for the 17th of May Parade, a march held in Bay Ridge each year to celebrate the signing of the Norwegian Constitution.

The population of Norwegians in southwest Brooklyn numbered in the tens of thousands in the 1940s and 1950s and led locals to nickname Eighth Avenue “Lapskaus Boulevard” after a traditional stew. But that population has dwindled steadily over the years as members of other immigrant groups, primarily Asian and Middle Eastern, have moved in.

Bakke Rutuelo said the dwindling Norwegian population, which eroded her customer base, and the high costs of owning a small business in New York City were the key factors in her decision to close up shop.

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“The truth is there aren’t that many Norwegians left in Bay Ridge. A large part of my business depended on people coming in from out-of-state. The bridge tolls also hurt me. People from out of town were always telling me it cost them a lot of money to travel here to shop in my store,” she said.

“And the cost of doing business in New York, especially for a small store, is ridiculously high,” Bakke Rutuelo added.

After the store closes, Bakke Rutuelo won’t be idle for long. She already has a new job lined up, but said she wasn’t ready to reveal it yet. Her mother planned to retire, she said.

Bakke Rutuelo, who is a community activist in Bay Ridge, said she would remain active. Among her extra-curricular activities, she is resident of the Guild for Exceptional Children at 260 68th St., and vice president of Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center at 1250 67th St.

She is also a longtime member of the 17th of May Parade Committee and organizes the Miss Norway of Greater New York Contest each year.

Since the news of her decision to close the store was revealed, Bakke Rutuelo has received numerous phone calls and Facebook messages from local residents. “I’m overwhelmed by the love and support,” she said.

For more information on Nordic Delicacies, call 718-748-1874.

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