First Store Opens in New “Old” Reykjavík House Skip to content

First Store Opens in New “Old” Reykjavík House

The reconstruction of the old houses that stood on the corner of Laekjargata and Austurstraeti by Laekjartorg square in the city center and were destroyed in a fire in 2007 has now almost been completed. The first store opened there yesterday.

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Laekjargata 2. View of Laekjartorg square.

The Nordic Store started out as a webstore selling all things Icelandic. Now it also operates two stores in Reykjavík, on Skólavördustígur 4, which opened in 2009, and, as of yesterday, on Laekjargata 2—arguably the most visible street corner in Reykjavík.

Highlighting Icelandic products and design, the store carries everything from tea made from Iceland moss and hand-knitted lopapeysa woolen sweaters, to the new EFJ Eyjafjallajökull perfume by Gydja and Blue Lagoon SPA beauty products.

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From the opening of the Nordic Store.

The design of the store’s interior is also true to the Icelandic style: a counter made of columnar basalt, an old pier-turned-table legs and panels with rusty nails on the wall that are remains of a shipwreck found on a desolate beach. And that’s exactly where it feels you are—if it weren’t for all the classy design products around you.

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From the opening of the Nordic Store.

The Nordic Store’s path to success is a rather interesting one. The webstore was bought by Bjarni Jónsson and Hafsteinn Valur Gudbjartsson in 2008, former bankers who were laid off before the banking collapse in October that year.

As stated in an article on icenews.is from 2009, their “key to success” was to offer “quality products in niche markets.” To cope with high demand of woolen products, they hired more than 50 local knitters, most of whom were unemployed at the time.

Business must be booming with a new store opening in the heart of the capital. But isn’t it a little 2007*? “We own everything debt-free,” Jónsson smiles.

While he and Gudbjartsson are celebrating the opening with their friends, families and business partners, the first customers enter the store, even though the sign above the entrance has yet to be put up and construction workers are still busy outside.

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A selection of the store’s woolen sweaters; The first customers.

“We’ve already sold a lopapeysa,” Gudbjartsson says, clearly optimistic about the future. They will soon move into their new office space on the second floor with other businesses scheduled to open in the new “old” buildings in the early summer as the reconstruction gradually comes to an end.

Designed by Argos, Gullsnid, Studio-Granda, Verkís and Efla, the houses were reconstructed to coincide with the old Reykjavík streetscape. ISK 500 million (USD 4.3 million, EUR 3.0 million) were contributed to the project, as stated on the website of the City of Reykjavík.

The houses on Laekjargata 2 and 2b were designed in the style of the houses that burnt down but were raised by one storey, while the house on Austurstraeti 22 was built exactly like the original.

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Laekjargata 2 and Austurstraeti 22 with a new building being constructed in the backyard to resemble the old Nýja bíó.

It was originally built by Ísleifur Einarsson in 1801-1802 and served as a courthouse. The reconstruction is based on the way it looked during its heyday after the Danish count Trampe remodeled it in 1807.

The house on Laekjargata 2 was built in stages from 1852-1980. The history of its construction was taken into account during reconstruction.

In the backyard behind the buildings a new house is being built, which to a large extent is based on the cinema Nýja bíó. A restaurant run by Icelandic national team chef Hrefna Saetran is set to open there on June 17, Iceland’s National Day.

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The new Nýja bíó. Photos by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

Nýja bíó was built in the backyard of Austurstraeti 22 in 1919-1920 in Jugendstil, which also characterizes the new building, although it has three stories instead of the original two. It was demolished to make way for the Ida building on Laekjargata 2a.

All of the buildings have a joint basement which could possibly be connected with the basements of Laekjargata 2a and Austurstraeti 20 in the future. Rosenbergkjallarinn used to be located in the basement, one of the finest restaurants in Reykjavík at the time.

Click here to read about the fire and Reykjavík City’s purchase of the ruined buildings.

*“A little 2007” is a phrase which became popular in Iceland after the banking collapse, meaning “isn’t it a little extravagant?” in pre-crisis fashion, when everything was bought on credit and everyone wanted to be cool. Which is now totally uncool.

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