Interview by Mandy Lancia
Photography by Jodi Bodtke
Scandinavian lifestyle boutique Stockholm Objects blossomed when Annette Brinkmeier — a frequent customer — found herself presented with the opportunity to take ownership in 2012. Free to indulge a life-long affinity for retail and design, she refined the shop’s vision and grew its presence to three locations in just five years. With hygge on their mind, Annette and husband Reinhard put everyday pleasure, comfort, and connection first, both in the products they source and the Fika they serve.
Annette, tell us a bit about your background.
Although my degrees are in business and advertising, I’ve always had an affinity for retail and design. When we moved to the US from Germany for Reinhard’s automotive job, I took a position at a privately owned bedding and interior design store and soon thereafter became manager. This is where I immersed myself deeper into design and learned how to run a store.
What was behind your decision to purchase Stockholm Objects in Hinsdale in 2012? And then open two additional locations — LaGrange and Harbert — within five years?
Stockholm Objects in Hinsdale was originally opened by two Swedish friends of mine. I loved the store and was a regular customer, but I had no idea I would own and grow this business one day. It was one of those situations when life just happens and the opportunity knocked on my door. The previous owners moved away from the area and were looking for someone to ‘carry on their venture.’ It turned out to be the perfect match and a successful transition!
Two years later, a storefront opened up for lease just down the block from our house in La Grange. That is when we decided to open a second location.
Then, opportunity knocked again in late 2016 when the old Harbert post office building became available. We loved the area, and we saw this as our chance to become a part of this vibrant community. By then, Reinhard had joined the business.
What was your connection to southwest Michigan?
We had bought a weekend cottage in Sawyer in 2008 and spent a lot of time in Harbor Country. We fell in love with the area’s unique businesses and started making friends here. That’s how we found the storefront in Harbert. In 2018, we became full-time Michigan residents.
Tell us about the product mix at SO and how it may have evolved over the years. How do you source, and what are you looking for when curating lines?
The product mix is rather broad for a store like ours, ranging from small home furnishings and accessories to clothing and apothecary items. It is best to describe SO as a Scandinavian/European-inspired lifestyle store.
We travel pretty extensively to scout for vendors, trends, and new lines at European and US trade shows. Over the years, we have established many personal relationships with vendors and often meet directly at their workshops or headquarters. This is important for us to get a better feel for who they are and what they do. Sourcing directly from Europe means we import containers through a port in Denmark several times a year with our finds. We like to source unique, functional, quality products with clean designs.
We’re excited about stocking Pappelina rugs from Sweden. They are our signature item and embody all of the qualities we look for in a product. In summer, we will have a fabulous outdoor furniture line from Denmark called Trimm Copenhagen.
We have to ask about hygge. What does it mean to you? Is its expression different in your Illinois and Michigan shops?
We try to have a hygge atmosphere in the stores, meaning a friendly and relaxed vibe. This is easiest to achieve in our Harbert store. Our unique free-standing building allows us to offer outdoor seating and Fika. Oftentimes, our customers just check in and hang out with us a bit to chat. A visit to SO can become a social event, beyond a shopping stop.
Best part of being a shop owner? Biggest challenge?
No doubt the best part is meeting all of our wonderful customers and getting to know them over a Fika (coffee break)! Second best part is traveling to Europe to scout for exciting new items.
Due to Covid, our biggest challenge is that we haven’t been able to do either of these things in over a year.
Any local tips you’d like to share? Favorite places to go or things to do?
We love to frequent all the different cafes, restaurants, stores, and venues this area has to offer. We enjoy buying our produce and meats at local farms. But our favorite thing to do is taking long walks on the beach or in the woods with our yellow lab Anton who is working on becoming a good shop dog.
13630 Red Arrow Hwy
Harbert, MI 49125