BUSINESS PROFILE: PIA LAINE-LANGLEY’S SPECIALTY STORE ‘MY SCANDINAVIA’

STORY: MY SCANDINAVIA
REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – RENO, NV
PHOTOS BY SUSAN KOPPEL

Pia Laine-Langley’s “My Scandinavia” opened its doors in 2008 in Reno, Nevada. The store offers baked goods, handmade candles, jewelry, crochet accessories and other gift items at reasonable prices. She also teaches the Finnish language and culture on weekends to groups.

Pia Laine was born in Vantaa, Finland in 1969. She has a younger sister and a brother. Her parents Leena and Kari, who are now retired, worked in publishing and advertising. She attributes her entrepreneurial spirit to them.

“After graduating high school, I started to study the travel business, did some modeling, I was a substitute teacher, I tried different fields”, Pia recalls. Then one faithful New Year’s Eve in 1990 she decided to ring in the New Year on a 24 hour cruise that departed from Helsinki.

“I met my future husband on that cruise. His name is Lee Langley and he was born and raised in Las Vegas. He was a professional musician on a gig, playing the drums on show band. I was dancing on the dance floor when he saw me. He later said he that he knew that as I was the girl he was going to marry.”

They dated for a couple of years and married in 1993. The newlyweds moved to the husband’s home town, Las Vegas. Pia was 23 at the time.


“Las Vegas was a huge culture shock. I had a lot of problems getting used to the everyday routines. The people were so different and the whole lifestyle was so much faster compared o the Finnish lifestyle. The weather was just amazing. In August, it was 120 degrees, so I was melting. I really didn’t have any friends there, which made it really hard. My husband was playing and touring a lot. So I was feeling lonely. I had no car, so I felt stuck. Lee’s family is all in Las Vegas, so that made it easier. They were driving me to places and taking me to the bank, to the doctor, etc. You really need a car, because you cannot walk anywhere. It was a very different kind of an experience for an independent, Finnish woman. It was really hard to get used to living there, ” Pia recalls.

The couple ended up staying only one year and relocated to Reno in 1994.

“Lee got a job here, working for ‘the American Superstar Show’. They had dancers, Elvis and Sinatra impersonators there. He was playing the drums. I was a working at a women’s clothing store the Reno Hilton. I took a while to get used to this lifestyle here too.”

After a few years ‘The American Superstar Show’ was cancelled and Lee had to start looking for another job.

“At that time we started thinking about starting a family. The nightclub scene did not fit with the idea. So, he changed fields. He is in car business now – a sales manager at Nissan of Reno.”

The couple’s son Zachary was born in 1997.

Ten years ago Pia begun testing the waters of having her own business.

“I started by making crocheted gifts for friends and family – socks, knit caps, scarves and Afghans. I also started making candles and soaps. A couple of them said, these are just beautiful – you should start your own business.”

Pia then added baking to her repertoire and got a bakery license. “I started making Scandinavian baked goods. I bake Finnish rye bread, cinnamon bread (pulla).”

She was able to finance the store without taking on any loans. “I did it little by little in stages. I sold something, saved my money. I basically paid for it all by myself. I didn’t take on any loan, I didn’t want to get stuck with huge expenses, in case the store didn’t work out. ”

Pia’s ‘My Scandinavia’ store opened in 2008. She serves her customers with an individual touch, telling them about the products and conversing with her customers

“The store is located in Arlington Gardens. It is a small mall that has specialty stores and businesses, like a day spa and an Italian store.”

The mall sits in an area formerly known as ‘Little Denmark’. Even today people with Scandinavian background live there. ‘My Scandinavia’ itself has become a cultural outpost of Finland in the middle of the Nevada desert.

“Saturdays at 11 am I’m teaching Finnish basics in the store. We also have an advanced group. Many of the students have Finnish roots – their parents of grandparents came from Finland. They had either never learned Finnish or had forgotten the language and wanted to relearn it. We also have a couple of students, who are just interested in learning Finnish. I have a mom and her daughter, who think there is something special about Finland, so they wanted to learn the language,” Pia explains.

The store is open five days a week – Tuesdays through saturdays. The handmade items are reasonably priced:

• earrings 5 – 15 dollars
• candles 5 – 20 dollars
• loaf of bread 6 dollars
• knit caps 6 – 20 dollars
• afghans 40 – 150 dollars

There is also Swedish art glass and crystals, reindeer meat, chocolates and other Finnish delicacies to be found in ‘My Scandinavia’. Thursdays are baking days for Pia, so there are fresh bakery goods available on weekends.

“Sometimes I have samples here during weekends –little pieces of rye bread with real butter on them. When customers see a dark loaf of rye bread, they ask if it is chocolate! But if they try it, they will usually buy a loaf.”

The holiday season is busy at ‘My Scandinavia’.

“It is unbelievable. I can’t sleep at all. It is very busy all the time. Halloween is not a Finnish holiday, but I always create a festive display.”

Pia welcomes all visitors to Reno to drop by ‘My Scandinavia’.

“I’m going to be waiting here with coffee and cinnamon rolls. Anyone, who wants to visit Reno, give me a call. Let’s keep the Finnish thing going!”

Contact information:

Website:
www.myscandinaviagifts.com

Pia will gladly receive your orders via email or phone.

Phone: (775) 742-9173

In the near future, you will be able to order dirtectly from www.myscandinaviagifts.com

 

 

468 ad