Back in 1981, when Sid Backlund Jr. was 23 and his brother Terry was only 19, the two young men decided to open a small food stand inside a Wisconsin Avenue building for Fisherman's Picnic.
"We sold popcorn, nachos, hot dogs, pop, our mom's brownies, and a few other items," said Sid. "We had no idea how it would work."
The two brothers were encouraged enough to keep the fledgling shop open through August into September, before closing to return to school. Next June 5, 1982, Sven and Ole's opened again. This time it stayed open.
Sid laughs at their lack of experience. "We figured it would take four 12-pound boxes of nacho chips to last the first month. After only four days, we had sold 29 boxes. We were having the chips hauled up by bus and we bought all the Velveeta cheese in the entire country. We were totally unprepared."
The brothers started that summer with their mother's kitchen stove and an old Norge refrigerator. That summer, they doubled the space to 400 square feet. It's the area where you now enter and turn left to order.
The building that housed that early operation and was later used entirely by the growing restaurant was originally built in the 1920's for use by People's Supply. It later became Becky's Store, Gambles and C.O. Backlund and Sons Hardware. People still remember C.O. in his later years sitting his lawn chair with fly swatter in hand, arguing politics with anyone who came in. He was Sid and Terry's grandfather.
In 1985, Sven and Ole's added what is now the dining room. In March of '88, the Pickled Herring Pub came on stream and in 1990, the balance of the building was acquired to increase kitchen and storage space.
Today, Sven & Ole's occupies 3,500 square feet of space and has over 50 employees. Because of their intensive TV advertising over the years, they are arguably the best known restaurant on the North Shore.
Sid Jr. continues to run the entire operation, with regular assistance from his parents, Betty and Sid, and a crew of good managers. Terry went on to pursue other interests in 1998, but he remains a regular in the TV commercials and is the number one consultant and booster to Sven & Ole's.
The Original Sven & Ole's business is now completely computerized, and has come a long way since those first days when you could buy Betty B's brownies for 35 cents a piece.
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