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Simply Scandinavian Foods - a smorgasbord right here in Portland

"Can we please go to the Norwegian store? Please, mamma, please?" This is a phrase I hear quite often when I am running errands with my 3-year old son. It is hard to say no, especially since Simply Scandinavian Foods is among my favorite stores in Portland as well. After moving to the area last fall, I was delighted to discover this gem while driving down Stevens Avenue. Suddenly I saw a row of Scandinavian flags out of the corner of my eyes, and as soon as possible I made a U-turn to investigate. Sure enough, the flags, my Norwegian favorite among them, crowned the top of a small store offering Scandinavian foods, a tempting array of candy and a welcoming atmosphere to match. I was overjoyed! As any foreigner can attest, finding a place that sells food from the homeland is a delight since little evokes the nostalgic senses quite as much as the comforting tastes and smells of one's upbringing.

Now that I am a regular customer, I have found that this is a favorite store of many people, Scandinavians and Americans alike. Of course, the food, the cakes, the candy, and the myriad of interesting artifacts are the main attractions; however, the reason this is such a delightful store is solely due to its friendly owner, Mary - no last name needed. "I am Simply Mary", she says with her infectious laughter. It might come as a surprise that Mary is not Scandinavian at all, at least not by heritage. She grew up in Northern Maine with a mixture of French-Canadian and Lebanese roots; however, she was also just eight miles from New Sweden and its Scandinavian influences. With parents in the wholesale business, she eventually decided that a similar path would be her own. With a love of people and food (in that order), her vision for a niche eventually settled on creating a Scandinavian store and at the same time carry on a Scandinavian tradition that had been part of her upbringing. She has made Portland her home for the last thirty years, and it is obvious she knows the area and its inhabitants well.

There is an eclectic mix of offerings at her colorful store, and merchandise from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland is represented. Where else could you find marzipan-filled chocolate, salty licorice, smoked salmon roe, pickled herrings, brown goat cheese, cream cake, and cod liver oil all in one place? The fact that Mary is neither Danish nor Icelandic could very well be a significant benefit since she promotes her goods with equal enthusiasm. Had she been Swedish it is likely her store would be heavily Swedish, à la the IKEA food store. Luckily there seems not to be a preferred emphasis on any particular country, but rather on the best of them all. Also, she orders products based on demands, and she will gladly try to order anything a customer would like - within reason. There are also fresh baked goods, and any of the special Scandinavian cakes can be specially ordered. Even though she used to bake the cakes herself, she now has favorite local bakers who make the individual varieties. Mouth-watering photographs of the baked temptations are hanging all around the store. There is also a section that is not food-related at all. Nestled between her tasty selection is a whole array of Scandinavian soaps, perfumes, lotions, and even mouthwash. On the bottom shelf is yet another intriguing selection - pet products. Even dogs receive special treatments at this place!

dog bowl

The store itself moved to its current location on 469 Stevens Avenue about a year ago. Simply Mary used to be in The Old Port; however, she feels this location is more authentic for a foreign food store with other European stores close by. There are Italian, Greek, Jewish, and Irish neighbors, and the surrounding area is a family neighborhood with lots of people walking about. It is also easy to find parking. So, whether you're a Scandinavian wishing for an authentic treat or an American curious about the temptations Scandinavia has to offer, stop by and say hello to Mary. Snack on some of the ever-present free samples, browse the colorful shelves, fridge and freezer, and check out the information corner with its multitude of pamphlets about current events and organizations. You are sure to feel "velkommen"!


Karin Berling is a Norwegian currently living in Cape Elizabeth. Questions or comments can be sent to

simply maryMary Grant, original owner of Simplyscadinavianfoods. candy


A small selection of the fancy cakes that can be ordered.


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