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Viking House to close after 30 years in Concord

  • Jana Wise moves merchandise out of the front window of the Viking House, which she and her partner, Peter Madison, are closing after running it for five years. Their going out of business sale at the North Main Street store starts on Thursday. Photographed on Monday; February 25, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Jana Wise moves merchandise out of the front window of the Viking House, which she and her partner, Peter Madison, are closing after running it for five years. Their going out of business sale at the North Main Street store starts on Thursday. Photographed on Monday; February 25, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • "It's endless," says Viking House employee Danielle Patsfield as she marks sale prices on bags of licorice on Monday afternoon; Febraury 25, 2013. Owner Peter Madison says the store sells between 30 and 50 different kinds of licorice. He and partner, Jana Wise, are closing the Viking House store on North Main Street after running it for five years. Their going out of business sale starts on Thursday. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    "It's endless," says Viking House employee Danielle Patsfield as she marks sale prices on bags of licorice on Monday afternoon; Febraury 25, 2013. Owner Peter Madison says the store sells between 30 and 50 different kinds of licorice. He and partner, Jana Wise, are closing the Viking House store on North Main Street after running it for five years. Their going out of business sale starts on Thursday.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Jana Wise moves merchandise out of the front window of the Viking House, which she and her partner, Peter Madison, are closing after running it for five years. Their going out of business sale at the North Main Street store starts on Thursday. Photographed on Monday; February 25, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • "It's endless," says Viking House employee Danielle Patsfield as she marks sale prices on bags of licorice on Monday afternoon; Febraury 25, 2013. Owner Peter Madison says the store sells between 30 and 50 different kinds of licorice. He and partner, Jana Wise, are closing the Viking House store on North Main Street after running it for five years. Their going out of business sale starts on Thursday. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

After three decades of selling Scandinavian goods in downtown Concord, the Viking House is closing.

It was a difficult decision to close the store, owners Janna Wise and Peter Madison said. They’ve decided to leave the retail business and focus on their Hooksett-based landscaping company.

“It’s very emotional, it really is,” Wise said, standing in the store’s office area yesterday as employees stocked the shelves and organized for a clearance sale.

The Viking House has been a fixture on North Main Street for 30 years; Russ and Cathy Koppang opened the shop in 1983. They sold it to Wise and Madison when they retired in 2008.

The Koppangs taught the Hooksett couple how to run the store and stock it with Scandinavian goods, many imported from overseas. But after five years, Madison said the challenge of running two businesses and the poor retail economy caused them to “take a hard look at things.”

“We were on the retail roller coaster, to some degree,” he said.

They will now devote their time to operating Grapevine Property Services, the landscaping business they opened in 1999.

They decided to purchase the retail business in 2008, when they saw the Viking House was for sale and fell in love with the store and downtown Concord.

“We obviously wish everyone on the street well,” Madison said.

The Viking House is closed until Thursday, when its clearance sale begins. Madison and Wise plan to keep the store open for about two months to sell the inventory, which includes Scandinavian food, Vera Bradley products, Trollbeads jewelry and 30 to 50 different kinds of licorice.

The store and its products haven’t changed much since the Koppangs left.

“We said, ‘Why mess with something that works?’ ” Madison said.

Wise and Madison aren’t Scandinavian, but they learned about the culture from their regular customers. There was “lots of good storytelling over five years,” Madison said.

Cathy Koppang had also learned the culture from customers. Russ Koppang, a longtime math teacher at Concord High School, was Norwegian, but Cathy was the face of the store.

“I’m just the mother of Norwegians,” Cathy told the Monitor in 2008. “I remember when I first started, I knew nothing. I knew recipes from my husband’s family, but I learned so much from my customers.”

Wise said she’ll miss the customers. Many came on a weekly basis to purchase imported food, including cheese, pickled herring, candy and jams. Others came each holiday season to purchase a small tomte – a Scandinavian figure similar to Santa Claus.

“We had no idea how many Scandinavian people were in the area,” Madison said.

Madison said he will help Scandinavian customers find new ways to order their authentic products.

But importing products to sell had become one of the most challenging parts of the business, Wise said. It was difficult to coordinate shipping, fuel costs were rising and some of their overseas suppliers were retiring.

Wise and Madison are still in touch with the Koppangs, who they said split their time between homes in Maine and Florida. They recently reached them in Florida to tell them that the store was closing.

“They were sorry to hear it, but they said they understood,” Madison said.

Now, the couple hopes customers will also understand.

Their phone, which has a recorded message about the store closing, has been ringing nonstop. And customers have been knocking on the windows, which are plastered with neon signs announcing the clearance sale.

But the store’s closing has been perhaps most challenging for Wise, who has operated it for the past five years and struggled to smile yesterday afternoon as she talked about it.

“It was a difficult decision,” she said.

Wise said she will miss every part of the Viking House, down to the shop’s blue-striped bags.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments1

Unlike the Koppangs five years ago, Wise and Madison are simply closing Viking House rather than trying to sell it. Although they apparently were not asked about saleability by the reporter, it might well be that prospective proprietors are not as sanguine as the City’s design consultants regarding the economic value of current plans to reduce vehicle flow downtown, while decreasing the ease of parking on-street. (Pride comes before a fall.)

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