A couple of notes from you readers about the laundromat thing last week got me thinking.
Four years ago, during my first chapter of Icelandic living, I offered a few ideas in this very space on how a smart and motivated entrepreneur could make a buck off exporting select bits and pieces of Icelandaphenalia.
A few of them have been taken up since I wrote that column. Skyr, for instance, was on that list. Since then, this island’s miracle dairy product been made available both at Whole Foods markets in the United States, and at least one boutique skyr company has opened Stateside. I have heard there’s one in the UK somewhere, but I lack evidence.
Another more interesting example was to ship out old soccer uniform jackets with big Icelandic surnames scrawled across the back. This, I felt, was a particularly good idea (it was a few years back and people were still big on vintage sports gear), and I actually saw a manifestation of this at the clothing chain Urban Outfitters.
It was a remake of an old sports jacket with an Icelandic last name across the shoulders. Coincidence? Perhaps. But this year Urban Outfitters also was selling mass produced versions of a tea-cup-cum-champagne-glass that an Icelandic industrial designer has been producing and selling in Reykjavík for years.
So just humor me, and let me roll around in the thought that some design scout from a successful retail chain ripped off my idea.
Now that I actually live here, I’m thinking a bit more in the other direction – things that we need here that I guarantee will be a success if you bring them. I’ll even run them for you if you front the money. They’re mostly food ideas, frankly. That’s what I mostly think about.
- While we’re on the subject, an Urban Outfitters franchise. Since they love Iceland so much anyway. If this chain’s semi fashion-forward trends, digested and served to 20-somethings at cheap prices were available downtown, and not in one of the malls, somebody would make a killing, not only among locals but among Reykjavík bar tourists who want to come here and really want to buy something trendy but can’t afford anything.
- The laundromat. Preferably, a coffee shop and laundromat combo. See last week’s daily life.
- Budweiser. Why hasn’t anyone imported the King of Beers and opened some kind of atmospheric little hole in the wall to serve it in? I think this may be along the lines of what the bar “11” was going for a few years back, but for me, something went wrong. It was always so loud in there, and you can’t hang out at the bar with your Bud and whiskey back if there is a DJ in your ear. You need a bad jukebox. Maybe you could convince Budweiser to make a special Iceland label like Texas, Hawaii and Alaska have. (Iceland has a very distinct shape, too, you know.) It could be the first international Budweiser bottle.
- The Cupcake/Fairy Cake Revolution. The trend of sugary iced cupcakes straight out of 1950 swept New York and London long ago. Icelanders dig their cakes and sitting around in warm, pleasant places. Cupcakes are cheap. Why not?
- An organic pho restaurant. Soup is huge here. Asian fusion is huge here. Organic is, now, huge here. Offering Vietnamese chicken noodle soup and Vietnamese coffee to the hungover crowds on Saturdays and Sundays would be like a gift from heaven. (To be fair, this is a bit of a rip off of an idea a friend of mine had, so you may owe him royalties on this.)
Now I know some of these things – particularly the Urban Outfitters and the Budweiser suggestions – may smack a bit of cultural imperialism. But a note to the purists who haven’t been here for awhile: it’s too late. KFC serving chicken dinners in full force. There’s a Nike store downtown, though it is, rather charmingly, called Nike Búdin.
If you can’t beat the forces of globalization, join them. I don’t think you’ll meet a lot of Icelanders who are very nostalgic for the days when you could only buy hard liquor and there were five restaurants in Reykjavík anyway.
And some of us could really go for a cupcake and a Bud.