As the name reveals, this gourmet deli is nestled right in the middle of Lille Tøyen Hageby – loosely translated as Little Tøyen Garden Village. Here, focus is drawn to sustainability, organic and locally sourced produce and above all, quality.
We meet the two women behind it all just a short week before the opening. Kaja Rambæk Holmboe Bang and Christine Hammer are both in good spirits. Despite having quit their day jobs, venturing into a future that is dependent upon standing out in the crowd, they do not seem to wear their stress on the sleeve.
Outside, bricklayers work rapidly, re-fixing the stairs. Luckily, they are blessed with crisp autumn weather. The sun is shining through the big windows, warming us up, while the smell of fresh paint lingers in the air. The building is newly renovated by the housing association of Lille Tøyen Hageby, yet it is easy to sense the history in the old walls. And as we continue our conversation, light is shed upon that history too.
This garden village, containing rows of charming brick houses, was built in the late 1920’s to house local labourers and craftsmen. At that time, Tøyen was considered ‘outside’ the Oslo city centre. It was located “på landet” as we say in Norwegian, meaning “on the countryside”. Today, the city has grown around it – and finally, embraced it.
Tøyen is fast becoming one of the trendiest areas in Oslo. Alongside other up-and-coming areas, not long ago it was subject to instability and more of a dodgy reputation. Some will claim it still is. One of the area’s main draws has long been the Munch Museum, which is soon to be relocated to the newly developed harbour side. The relocation did not pass through local government without a fight. In return, the area will be compensated with generous investments over the coming years, mainly targeting childrens’ education and living conditions.
Although the Munch is set to depart, other forms of culture are now arriving to this part of town. Perhaps the most noticeable is the relocation of the famous five-day music festival Øya, which attracts big artists and even bigger crowds. As a result, real estate prices are increasing and pubs, cafés and trendy shops are sprouting like mushrooms. Tøyen – in other words, is the new place to see and be seen.
Going full circle
Although the small brick village has become a desirable place to live and is now largely populated by young families, Lille Tøyen Kolonial will both benefit from and contribute to the surrounding changes. It appeals to cultural, trendy and environmental conscious consumers from all over the city.
Over the years, the space has seen many varieties of food stores and supermarkets come and go, but never with such an emphasis on sustainability. In a way, Lille Tøyen Kolonial represents a contemporary reincarnation of its past life; originally, it was a grocery store selling local produce from surrounding farms. One hundred years later and the merchant counter is back up, selling produce from nearby farms – just like the good old days.
Kaja and Christine strive to source their produce from organic farms in close proximity to the city. They also vocalise a desire to cooperate with other similar initiatives, and have already established common logistics and delivery routes with Mølleren Sylvia – a like-minded grocery store at the opposite end of town.
Both proud new owners have high hopes, and believe that the neighbourhood has long been ready for such a place. Here people can find special cuts for a Sunday roast, or stock up on seasonal greens and other fresh ingredients you just can’t find in the regular supermarkets.
– We would like to guide our customers on seasonal products and give inspiration on how to use them. We also want to take back the historical importance of this building as a part of the local community. For us, that means to contribute socially, selling and serving natural food that is good for you and the environment, says Kaja.
With background as a chef, Kaja is an experienced food advisor and will be responsible for crafting the menus. And if it is good enough for her husband, Michelin-starred chef Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo, it is certainly good enough for us.
Christine on the other hand, has a background in graphic design and project management involving sustainable concepts. Design is her thing, but she has had a little help from her husband Brynjulf Krokstrand, who is one of two designers behind the interiors. The ambition was to make an authentic old-school grocery store. Raw pine boxes, moveable in a flexible shelf system, that kind of thing. It all looks fresh, crisp and clean. And of course, plastic bags and other unnecessary packaging will not be making an appearance.
At the end of the day, Christine and Kaja want to enlighten, engage with and learn from their customers. You can come here to grab a coffee and a cake, find inspiration for dinner, or just sit down to take a small breather. That is the heart of Lille Tøyen Kolonial – it is not just a place to take you back in time, but a place where you can also take time back.