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Viking House in downtown Concord to reopen under new ownership

The Viking House isn’t leaving downtown Concord after all.

After hearing in February that Janna Wise and Peter Madison were closing the store, Sue McCoo decided to buy it. McCoo, who owns The Capitol Craftsman & Romance Jewelers, will reopen under the same name, with many of the same products.

The Viking House has been a fixture on North Main Street since Cathy and Russ Koppang opened and began selling Scandinavian goods in 1983. The Koppangs sold the store to Wise and Madison when they retired in 2008.

McCoo remembers walking into the Viking House 30 years ago to meet Cathy Koppang. McCoo and her husband, David, have remained close friends with the Koppangs for decades.

While McCoo understood Wise and Madison’s decision to close and focus on their landscaping business, McCoo said it was “heartbreaking” to look across the street at the neon signs advertising the clearance sale.

“You looked at that and you went, ‘Oh my god,’ ” she said. “Viking House was closing and here, my friends, they put all that work into it.”

So McCoo “just started talking to them about it.”

She wasn’t needed full time at The Capitol Craftsman & Romance Jewelers, which she and her husband have run for 34 years. They’ve been on North Main Street – directly across from the Viking House – for the 30 years it has been open.

“I have a really strong staff, and I did try a little bit of semiretirement last summer and I didn’t like it,” she said. “So
. . . I was ready for a new challenge.”

Mark Ciborowski, the landlord for the Viking House and McCoo’s store, said he was initially surprised that McCoo wanted to purchase the shop.

“But if anybody would not surprise me, it’s Sue,” he said. “She’s like an Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going and going.”

Through her friendship with the Koppangs, McCoo was already familiar with many of the products at the Viking House. She’d eaten the Scandinavian food as a dinner guest at the Koppangs’ home, and traveled overseas with Cathy for a trade show about 20 years ago.

“As soon as I realized that I really knew the product better than I thought I did, then it went from being like a really stupid idea to . . . a ‘maybe this could work’ idea,” she said.

It quickly became hard to keep the sale a secret until it closed last week, Ciborowski said.

“I had heard from so many people in the last month that they were so disappointed that the store was closing,” he said.

McCoo hopes to reopen the Viking House before Memorial Day. She only purchased the store’s name and shelving from the previous owners, so she is busy ordering products and making plans.

McCoo will sell Scandinavian favorites, including herring, lingonberries, cookies and potato pancakes. She also has ordered a variety of styles of dishes, and plans to carry linens, Vera Bradley bags and Trollbeads.

The shop is now undergoing minor renovations before it reopens. Ciborowski is replacing the floors, and McCoo is adding fresh paint. She had helped Cathy Koppang paint the walls years ago.

“Oh, this is fun – here I am painting the same wall,” McCoo said.

Cathy Koppang told the Monitor in 2008 that she didn’t know much about Scandinavian heritage when she opened the store, but had learned a lot in 25 years. Her husband, Russ, is Norwegian.

McCoo isn’t sure that she has Scandinavian ancestry.

“I have blue eyes,” she said. “I don’t know – those Vikings were everywhere.”

The Koppangs now split their time between Florida and Maine, but McCoo said they’re coming back to Concord in a few weeks. She’s sure they will stop by the new Viking House.

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

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