Trygve Harald Amundsen, 73, reentered the cafe where he has drank coffee with a group of friends every morning for the past ten years and, after a look around the once-familiar space that has literally been turned sideways after a month-long renovation, picked out after a momentary glance a long table near the new counter where they’ll gather from now on.
“It’s nice,” he said while paying for his coffee while nodding an inquisitive colleague toward their new table. “We have our special space back.”
Amundsen and other long-time Longyearbyen residents in the notorious group are among the many regulars who were among the first arrivals at Fruene as the cafe at one end of Lompensenteret reopened at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The floor-to ceiling upgrade of the cafe that originally opened in 2003 is the last major renovation in the shopping center that has been completed remodeled during the past couple of years.
“For one month it’s been 24 hours a day,” Tove Beate Eide, the cafe’s owner, told one of the many customers offering their congratulations on the finished space.
The reopening occurred two days later than scheduled – which actually is far better than many projects experiencing long delays due to various issues involving the remoteness of Svalbard – but still before the beginning of Polarjazz on Thursday which was Eide’s main hope. She said there are now about 100 seats, compared to about 70 before, and the kitchen has two new high-tech ovens plus a new stone pizza oven.
“For now we’re starting with the same ‘menu’ concept, but we are looking at some new things,” she said.
Prices remain largely the same as well, although coffee is now 35 kroner with one free refill, instead of 25 kroner for a cup and 10 kroner for a refill.
Eide said there are still some items to be stocked and the owners of Lompensenteret need to finish rebuilding the exterior entrance, meaning customers have to enter via the interior shopping center for now, but overall she’s happy with the results.
“I feel excited now that it’s over,” she said, even if “I need a day off soon.”
That may have to wait a bit since the cafe is short on staff for various reasons (although they were paid during the shutdown), although Eide said she is planning to hire more soon.
The new service counter is now longer and runs along the wall next to the inner entrance, rather than at the far end next to the kitchen. The yarns that a group of women gather to knit on Thursday evenings during the winter have been moved to the opposite side of the cafe near the exterior entrance and the bathrooms located next to that entrance have been removed. The photographs and art for sale that used to line the walls are gone, as are the circular lampshades with historic black-and-white photos along their innards – which Eide said she already has interested buyers for.
Also, there are no longer any accessible power plugs (there were only a couple before), which she said isn’t a deliberate decision to discourage “campers,” although like plenty of cafe owners she doesn’t encourage them either.
Customers gathering Wednesday morning described the overhaul as “urbane,” “cosmopolitan” and “like being in Oslo” (the latter meant as a compliment). Morten Flygel, another of the regulars at the table of long-time locals who used to work in the shop next door for many years, said he appreciates the more open feel of a room that often felt crowded.
“I think it’s a lot of space,” he said. “It’s airy. You can’t pack it.”