Bay Ridge’s Nordic Delicacies set to close

End of an era: Helene Bakke and daughter Arlene Rutuelo are closing Third Avenue’s 30-year-old Nordic Delicacies at the end of the month due to a lack of business.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Bay Ridge is bidding “farvel” to a neighborhood institution.

Nordic Delicacies will close on Jan. 31 after nearly 30 years of serving Scandinavian specialties on Third Avenue. The store is closing due to a lack of business, said one of the owners, but locals were quick to send condolences.

“I feel like it’s a funeral — I’ve been getting a lot of calls and messages,” said lifelong Ridgite Arlene Rutuelo, who runs the store with her mother Helene Bakke. “It’s bittersweet. You wish you could go on forever, but I think it’s time.”

The area was once home to tens of thousands of Nordic folk, Rutuelo said. But a scant 1,716 Scandinavians lived in the neighborhood in 2013, according to census figures. Changing demographics mean fewer shoppers looking for Scandinavian specialty items, Rutuelo said.

“The community has dwindled,” she said. “It’s been a struggle over the last couple years.”

Rutuelo, who heads the Norwegian Independence Day Parade committee and sits on the Norwegian Christian Home’s board of directors, said she will remain active in both organizations.

The neighborhood’s Scandinavian population may be too small to support a specialty-food store, but the annual heritage parade will march on, she said.

“The parade will continue — it’s just not enough to sustain a business any longer,” Rutuelo said.

A neighbor who stopped by the deli to take one last photo said the restaurant was a local institution.

“It’s a little piece of Bay Ridge that’s going away,” said Dennis Monsen, one of a dwindling number of locals claiming Scandinavian descent.

But he admitted the closure is a fact of life as the fabric of Bay Ridge transforms.

“Neighborhoods change — it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.

Now Monsen will have to travel further afield to get specialties like Norwegian cod liver oil.

“[Rutuelo] told me there might be a health food store on 92nd that has it,” he said. “I’m gonna run out there now. I hope they have it.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeg‌er@cn‌gloca‌l.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Memory lane: Rutuelo and Bakke reminisce on Nordic Delicacies’ halcyon days. Neighborhood Norwegian Americans and visitors from Norway once crowded around this window table by the dozens to sample the deli’s famous waffles, Rutuelo said.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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