föstudagur, janúar 20, 2006

hressingarskálinn

...is a big, glass-fronted cafe right on the main drag downtown. Before it became a McDonald's, it was known as Hressó. Thankfully, McDonald's just wasn't doing enough bidness downtown and had to close a couple years back. So now the cafe is back and the name Hressó is back as its nickname, since the long-form name (that means roughly "the refreshment lodge") is just too long. Like any self-respecting Reykjavík cafe, this one becomes a dance club around midnight on weekends and is open all night, jam-packed with the lost youth of Iceland. But as a Thursday night cafe, it has its real magic. There is always a musician or band, usually playing acoustic favorites at one end of the room. There are big black couches and tables along the wall of windows that look out onto the street. There are passersby looking in to see if they know anyone inside. There are pods of young Icelanders coming in the door, unwrapping scarves in that around-the-head way, walking purposefully toward their friends across the room. There are women reading women's magazines and men smoking and talking. There are phones lighting up and text messages to be sent. There are tables full of women leaning in to admire some detail together. And the lone guitarist's steel-string sounds carrying over the top of everything. Last night, Hressó was the heart of Iceland.

5 Comments:

Blogger Byron said...

So is it true: are there no McDonald's "restaurants" in Iceland?!? What about Starbucks? It's everywhere here (as witnessed by Diamond Geezer here, who is one of the absolute blogging authorities on London), and it's not a pleasant sight.

20.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

No, there are at least two McDonalds. I can think of one in the Skeifan neighborhood and another out here in Kópavogur. But we are fortunate to not have a single assholic Starbucks franchise. Sadly, most Icelanders I have talked to about Starbucks seem eager to have one, for God-knows-what reason. So that will probably change, sadly. It's a shame, too, because there are already so many nice local places to get great coffee and sit around. It's not like Iceland lacks a coffee culture.

20.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

Here are some more details on how Starbucks operates, from an excellent article in Business Week:

The stores may be oases of tranquility, but management's expansion tactics are something else. Take what critics call its "predatory real estate" strategy--paying more than market-rate rents to keep competitors out of a location. David C. Schomer, owner of Espresso Vivace in Seattle's hip Capitol Hill neighborhood, says Starbucks approached his landlord and offered to pay nearly double the rate to put a coffee shop in the same building. The landlord stuck with Schomer, who says: "It's a little disconcerting to know that someone is willing to pay twice the going rate." Another time, Starbucks and Tully's Coffee Corp., a Seattle-based coffee chain, were competing for a space in the city. Starbucks got the lease but vacated the premises before the term was up. Still, rather than let Tully's get the space, Starbucks decided to pay the rent on the empty store so its competitor could not move in. Schultz makes no apologies for the hardball tactics. "The real estate business in America is a very, very tough game," he says. "It's not for the faint of heart."

I have read elsewhere that once Starbucks wipes out its competitors in a location (often a local favorite, such as our own Kaffibrennslan) it of course renegotiates the rents back to market rates. It's for this reason that I don't drink their coffee.

20.1.06  
Anonymous Sirry said...

Hressó back in business WOW!
Those were the days, there was nothing greater than hanging out at Hresso, during a break at MR, Verslo students would come in there too sometimes. It was the hot spot!
In the summer time, the yard was open to public and you'd put on a warm sweater and just sit out there for hours on end. At times people would disappear in the restrooms, some believe to smoke some hasish ;D
Those were the days, then the owner which I believe was the YMCA or some christian organisation didn't like all those light night activities and didn't renew the lease. There were stipulations in the lease, no late nights or sale of alcohol :( oh that was so so so so so so sad when it closed down. Nothing makes me happier today than to know that Hresso is back on and the ever annoying burger chain is OUT

25.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

Yep, the beer garden is still there and functioning in the summer! Can't wait for those days to come back.

25.1.06  

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