Love of Scandinavian heritage keeps downtown business thriving for 50 years
Stabo Scandinavian Imports was one of the original stores in West Acres when the shopping mall opened in 1972. Fifty years later, Sue Rusch is still proudly carrying the flag for Scandinavian culture in downtown Fargo.
FARGO — Sue Rusch is in her element as she greets customers to Stabo Scandinavian Imports in downtown Fargo.
She smiles and calls many by name as she makes her way between displays of books, puzzles, linens, glassware, sweaters, socks, chocolates, jams and more imported from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
While online sales have increased over the years — especially during the coronavirus pandemic — Rusch says she still prefers the in-person sale.
"We know our customers. They know us. That's the fun about having a brick-and-mortar store," she said. "Online is like a little extra store on the side."
This year marks 50 years in business for the store that got its start in the West Acres Shopping Center when it opened in 1972.
Rusch started working at the store just a few years later while majoring in Scandinavian studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Rusch, a German-Norwegian originally from New Salem, N.D., bought the store from founder Min Jones Bohlig in 1982, promising to carry on the store's Scandinavian focus.
"That was very important to her. Her heritage was important, and I wanted to continue that," says Rusch.
Rusch says she enjoyed her years at West Acres.
"I was so young. It was so exciting and fun," she recalls. "West Acres was very good to us. It was a very good home for us," she says.
But by 2017 she felt it was time to move and began looking at spaces in downtown Fargo.
"I just needed a change and felt my customers were gravitating down here to other small businesses," she says.
The current space at 406 Broadway offers more floor and storage space. Rusch is also now able to set her own store hours, rather than having to mirror the mall's hours.
"We love having the door open and the sunshine. It's been a great move," she says.
Adrienne Olson, vice president of communication for the Kilbourne Group, says Stabo has been a great addition to downtown.
"Stabo fits so well into the niche shopping scene in downtown Fargo, it feels like it has always been here. The 400 block of Broadway, where Stabo resides, is a stretch of uniquely wonderful shops that collectively become something magical," she said via a statement to The Forum. "Stabo is an absolute must-stop for anyone looking to get a feel for Fargo. It’s a gorgeous reflection of the Scandinavian heritage of the Fargo-Moorhead region and should be top of your list for holiday shopping this year!"
Rusch says Christmas is always a special time at the store.
"We'll be celebrating Small Business Saturday and, of course, Plaid Friday. The holidays are a big deal downtown," she says. "And it's a fun time with the merchandise. Everything is so bright and festive. And all good quality."
She says her best sellers over the holidays are likely Christmas ornaments. Sweaters are also popular, as are edible treats like cookies and jams.
A few special items are available now in honor of the store's 50th anniversary, including a commemorative Swedish dish cloth and an Ekelund towel. Both were designed to honor the store and Fargo-Moorhead history.
Rusch says there isn't any one secret to the success of Stabo Scandinavian Imports.
"Hopefully everyone has gotten good service and that's why they come back. And they love the product," she says. "And because it's part of the heritage of the Red River Valley. People are interested in their heritage and passing those things to the next generation."
WHAT: Stabo Scandinavian Imports
WHERE: 406 Broadway, Fargo
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday