In the heart of Los Angeles, California, just a stone’s throw from the glitter and glamour of Hollywood, is a small piece of Scandinavia. Olson’s Delicatessen and Gift Shop is owned and operated by Åke Ohlsson from Hjärnarp, Sweden. Growing up in southern Sweden, Ohlsson started his working career in the food business. Experience gained through his jobs in Ängelholm and Helsingborg, Sweden prepared him for the rigors of operating his own business in the United States. Ohlsson turned his eyes to the west in 1949, and established his business in 1956 on Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. He has been there for over 50 years, and at the age of 84, still loves to meet his customers and supply their Scandinavian specialties.
Christmas is Ohlsson’s busiest season, with orders for Christmas hams placed as early as October. The store provides homemade Danish liver pâté, as well as pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, lutfish, potato sausages, frozen lingonberries, and buttered ring pastries. Scandinavia customers travel from Nevada, Arizona, and California to purchase their Christmas treats.
There is nothing pretentious about the business. Handmade signs adorn the walls and the cash register dates from the 1960’s. From the deli counter, the aroma of newly baked bread fills the room, customers wait for their deli combos. The deli meats and cheeses are hand sliced and individually wrapped, and sandwich prices are reasonable. This small family operation has helped keep Scandinavian traditions alive in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Despite his age, Ohlsson plans to keep working as long as he can. With a quick smile and spirited step, Ohlsson says that he has always loved meeting people and is afraid they will forget him if he closes the shop.