“It’s been great, and I’ve enjoyed being in business here,” added Robert. “In the early years I couldn’t wait to get to work every day and open up, now you have to drag me in some days,” he said with a chuckle.
The Teodorinis’ early days of business did not begin in the Green Mountains, but instead the complete opposite: in the concrete jungle, New York City. In the late 1960s both worked in Manhattan, Robert for a film company, and Edel managing a showroom for a Danish fabric manufacturer in their design and decorator building. Robert used to pick Edel up at work, where the halls were decked with creative furniture designs that caught his eye as he wandered the building. The inspiration hit right then, and with Edel’s background in interior design, selling furniture seemed a natural business venture to them.
So how did the Teodorinis end up in Vermont? Robert had acquired a ski house a few years prior, and with Edel being a skiing enthusiast, the couple made their way to Vermont on weekends to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. “I fell in love with Vermont,” says Robert. “While Edel would go skiing I drove around and saw all these vacation homes and one day it came to me. I wondered where these folks got their furniture from, and the idea was born.”
Robert talked it over with Edel, and in September 1970 they rented a tiny space in the Coombs sugarhouse at the junction of Route 9 and Route 100, operating on weekends while spending weekdays at their Manhattan apartment. Over time, Robert became anxious to leave New York City. “I told her, ‘You know, Edel, one weekend we’ll come up and we won’t be going back,’” explains Robert. “She didn’t take it too seriously, but one weekend we moved up full time to the ski house.”
They began by selling what Robert described as “very contemporary” furniture, including Norwegian pieces and egg chairs.
It was while still operating out of the Coombs sugarhouse that the first bit of big business came in. At the time, the Teodorinis were the only ones selling furniture in the area, and a local builder asked if they wanted to furnish a model home. Shortly thereafter, the model home sold and the new owners asked them to finish furnishing the interior. “In our early days we would get assignments to furnish houses here and surprisingly a number of them asked us if we could come down to Connecticut and see if we could furnish their homes there too, and that really helped to snowball the business.”
The Teodorinis’ business was growing, but their furniture shop was not. So in 1973 they rented the three-story bank building on Main Street in Wilmington. “In the early years we imported quite a bit from Scandinavia, and we would go there over the spring and do our buying at the huge furniture marketplace in Copenhagen, Denmark,” said Robert.
Robert says the design and quality of Denmark furniture are fantastic and it is the best product to fulfill the original goal: Give good value for money and never carry products that they would later regret, or that had become obsolescent. As Edel explained, the product had to be durable. “ We never got into cheap furniture, because a lot of our customers were people who rented out their units. I wanted to know that the bunk bed we have, if you get up on it, you’re going to be safe.”
The business kept gaining steam and by the early 1980s the Teodorinis were contracted to furnish more and more condo complexes as they started to spring up. They created furnishment packages for rental units that, according to Edel, came with everything except towels and bedsheets. Running a three-story furniture store with few sets of hands to carry furniture up and down stairs became tiring, and finally, in 1985, they opened Swe Den Nor’s current residence in Dover.
While the Teodorinis say there will always be a market for Scandinavian furniture, that market is now mainly on the East and West coasts. There was a place for Scandinavian furniture in Wilmington and Dover for 42 years, and the Teodorinis say that their patrons were more like friends to them. Edel calls them “the best of the best” customers.
“We had a lot of great, great customers and that’s the main reason for staying open so long,” said Robert. “Some were kids when they first came in and now they have kids of their own. We want to thank them, it’s been a pleasure, and there has been pressure and hard work, but we’ve always bent over double to satisfy our customers, and I think they appreciate it. That’s the basis of our relationship and it’s nice to know you have customers who are pleased with what you’ve done for them.”
The Teodorinis intend to continue their travels to Norway as well as Florida, while staying rooted in the area, where Edel teaches in the Ability Plus adaptive ski program at Mount Snow.