DULUTH — Uff da. Sven and Ole's Pizza as North Shore-lovers know it is about to change.
The familiar downtown Grand Marais building on Wisconsin Street, home to first a food stand and then the famous pizza for more than 40 years, is on the market for $500,000. Owner Sid Backlund said in a message that he is not selling the business, just the commercial building, and will retain some land for "future considerations."
"After much thought, number crunching, the business and staffing nightmare of almost the past two years and 40 years of being in business, we decided it was well past time to revise the business operations of Sven and Ole's," Backlund posted on the Sven and Ole's Facebook page Wednesday.
He wrote that the pizza business no longer needs a 3,700-square-foot building, and he owns other property from which it could operate. He declined in a separate message to elaborate on what form Sven and Ole's would take in the future, but said it would operate as usual until the building sells.
With some "revision and tinkering, we should be able to have a much better version of Sven & Ole's," he wrote.
The pizzeria was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing staff shortages. It reduced its hours and days of operation, and eliminated indoor seating and delivery service. This summer, long lines of tourists and locals alike snaked down the sidewalk awaiting slices.
Reaction to the social media post was immediate and supportive.
"You guys are truly one of our few 'must stops,'" wrote Greg Running. "We will go where you guys are. Best of luck with everything."
The frozen pizza arm of the business will also stick around, at least for now, Backlund said. (Sven & Ole's frozen pies nearly swept the Star Tribune's pandemic-themed Minnesota-made pizza bracket in 2020, losing only to Heggies.)
A new business in the Sven and Ole's space would be part of a changing landscape for Grand Marais' main street. A 2020 fire destroyed three Wisconsin Street businesses, and last week a new family took over the Joynes Department Store & Ben Franklin.
Lots of "exciting changes" are on the horizon for Grand Marais, said Linda Jurek, executive director of both Visit Cook County and the county's chamber of commerce.
Backlund's Inga & Lena's building on Broadway Avenue is also for sale. Terry Backlund, brother of Sid and co-founder of the beloved pizza shop made famous by its jokey, Scandinavian-themed commercials, has the listings.