71 Years of Scandinavian Heritage
The Gift Box Celebrates an Anniversary–We Celebrate it as Our OMEGA MVP
Where did I come from? What were my ancestors like? How can I connect with my genealogical roots?
America is a melting pot. In a time where just about everything is produced to the masses, finding unique, authentic items can seem like no easy task. For one shop in Geneva, Illinois, they’ve spent the past 70 years providing a wide range of Scandinavian giftware both locally, and across the States.
The daughter of Swedish immigrants, Edythe Anderson had a dream to open a store that would sell all the Scandinavian items she had loved so much. After years of saving and the end of WWII, Edythe was able to open her store. The Gift Box was established in 1947.
“The Chicagoland area attracted a very large population of Scandinavian immigrants beginning in the 1800’s,” Hans Jönsson, co-owner of The Gift Box said. “A large amount of them settled in the suburbs, particularly in the Fox River Valley.” And that’s just where his father ended up after emigrating from southern Sweden.
Lennart Jönsson began working at The Gift Box in 1954 and he was immediately an asset. His passion and expertise of Scandinavia and giftware mixed with his ability to connect with anyone he met made Lennart not only beloved, but the obvious choice when it came to time for Edythe to retire. Lennart took control of The Gift Box in 1984 where he continued to help the business grow and thrive.
To the people in Geneva, Lennart was known as the “Swedish Ambassador” of culture and tradition. To his children, Hans and Maria Jönsson, he was simply known as dad. “Dad had so many great stories about his life in Sweden,” Hans said. “We traveled back home dozens of times together, and he has definitely passed his passion on to us.” When Lennart passed away in 2013, Hans and Maria had two options. Hang an ‘out of business’ sign, or keep the legacy alive. Of course the decision was simple.
“When The Gift Box opened in 1947, there were many Swedish owned businesses in Geneva. Ours is the last one that remains.”
Now a ‘jewel’ in Geneva, The Gift Box has become the Fox Valley’s headquarters for authentic Scandinavian gifts and food. They’ve even outlasted dozens of Swedish owned businesses that were once spread throughout Chicago.
It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for because The Gift Box just about has it all. Items are imported from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Swedish handcrafts, wood carvings, ornaments, and candleholders are just among the few fan favorites. Hans still spends much of his time traveling in Sweden looking for antiques and new products to bring back, just as he did with his father.
Another customer favorite is the food. “As all of the Swedish Delicatessens in Chicago have now closed, many people know they can get everything they need for their Swedish Smorgasbord at our store,” Hans said. They have everything from Swedish ham, lutefisk, herring, lingonberries and more!
This week, The Gift Box is celebrating 70 years in business with their 70th Anniversary Sale! The celebration sale began last Saturday, November 11 and runs through Wednesday, November 22. While you cannot buy directly through their website just yet (upcoming plans for 2018!), you can phone in your orders directly for purchase.
The Gift Box is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. They are located at 310 West State Street, Geneva, Illinois 60134. Check out some samples of what they sell at their website, keep updated with items and events through their Facebook Page, or stop on by for a total “in store experience” and to get back to your Scandinavian roots!