Obituary: 'Hoot' Ingebretsen, all-Scandinavian

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH and KIM ODE , Star Tribune staff w riters
  • Updated: May 23, 2012 - 10:56 PM

He operated the signature Minneapolis market and gift shop for decades.

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Ingebretsen's, the Scandinavian landmark store on Lake Street in Minneapolis, in 2003.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Charles "Hoot" Ingebretsen Jr., who for decades ran the Twin Cities' signature Scandinavian market that was opened in the same year he was born, has died.

Ingebretsen operated the store on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis that carried his family's name, as well as an impressive selection of Scandinavian specialties from hjorthornssalt to cloudberry preserves. He died on Tuesday following complications from pneumonia. He was 90.

The market and gift shop will close at 3 p.m. Friday, ahead of 5 p.m. funeral services. The store will remain closed through Memorial Day weekend and reopen on Tuesday.

Ingebretsen's father opened Ingebretsen's Model Market in 1921 and put his son to work on cleanup duty when he reached ninth grade. Ingebretsen remained there for more than half a century in a career that was more about honoring family than having a salesman's drive, said his daughter, Julie Ingebretsen.

"I think he often felt, well, it wasn't his first choice to do, but it was the family business and such a big deal," she said. "And he was so good at it."

Along with partner Warren Dahl, Ingebretsen built the market's reputation as the place for authentic delicacies. The store's offerings were expanded over the years to include Scandinavian gifts, a children's section and a classroom for year-round classes in Nordic crafts and culture. Customers often lined up out the door during the Christmas season to buy lutefisk, lefse and Swedish meatball mix. Likely, they were assisted by clerks who have worked there for decades.

That's a testament to values established by Ingebretsen that remain in place today, said Anne Gillespie Lewis, who last year wrote "Ingebretsen's Saga, A Family, A Store, A Legacy of Food" to celebrate the store's 90th anniversary. The occasion also was marked by Mayor R.T. Rybak, who said that Ingebretsen's has "helped keep East Lake Street a vibrant, diverse and exciting part of Minneapolis that 90 years later still represents every part of the world."

Julie Ingebretsen described her father as "very, very Norwegian," with remarkably blue eyes. The store's ethnic fame grew from unassuming roots. In a story in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in 1982, Ingebretsen said that as a kid, they never thought of the business -- or themselves, for that matter -- as particularly Norwegian. But with the ethnic revival of the 1960s, he said, "people started coming in and saying, 'What do you have that's Danish?' or, 'What do you have that's Swedish?'"

Even as new cultures have blended into the neighborhood, adding shops founded by people born in Minnesota, Africa and Latin America, Ingebretsen's has remained managed by the children of Ingebretsen and Dahl and continues to offer its slice of Scandinavia at 1601 E. Lake Street.

Ingebretsen went by two nicknames. He was called "Bud" within his family and "Hoot" by most everyone else. Julie explained "Hoot:" Once, as a kid, he and some friends were playing football in a neighborhood "and somebody got mad and chided him for 'hooting' around and it just stuck," she said. "Between 'Hoot' and 'Bud,' very few ever knew his name was Charles."

Ingebretsen began easing out of the day-to-day running of the store about 20 years ago, she said. But he was never idle. "I remember how much he was always making things, building something, fixing something, or teaching us how to do the same," she said. "He would never call himself creative, but he was."

Ingebretsen attended Minneapolis West High School and the University of Minnesota. He served in the Navy in the South Pacific. Ingebretsen resumed working in the store soon after returning from World War II, then fell in love and married Honore Adams. He and partner Al Olson bought the store from Charles Ingebretsen Sr. in 1953. When Olson retired, Dahl became co-owner in 1960 with the younger Ingebretsen.

Even in his later years, Ingebretsen would chip in and help during the busy Christmas season.

Ingebretsen was preceded in death by sisters Eleanor Campbell and Muriel Erickson and son William. In addition to his wife of 64 years and daughter Julie, he is survived by sister Laverne Johnson; son Jim; and daughter Molly.

Services are scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, with visitation one hour prior, at Visitation Church, 4530 Lyndale Av. S., Minneapolis.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482 Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

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