A ‘SUPER’ ADDITION TO THE MARKET: Expanded Svalbardbutikken officially opens after 17 months of upgrades, earning raves even from those who miss the ‘old times’

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Photo of Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik speaking at official opening courtesy of Svalbardbutikken

This time the expanded version of the world’s northernmost supermarket really, really is officially open.

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Self-service checkout registers and a vastly expanded selection of fresh foods are among the highlighted features of Svalbardbutikken’s expansion. Photo courtesy of Svalbardbutikken.

Svalbardbutikken, after 17 months of massive rennovasions and “soft” openings in the old and new halves of its space, officially opened with a full ceremony including music by the Store Norske Men’s Choir on Friday morning. The day was also marked by numerous special shipments and sales of fresh seafood, flowers and other items that – along with souvenirs and other visitor-oriented items – are the highlighted merchandise additions of the upgrade.

Among the featured speakers was Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, who as a Longyearbyen resident for 48 years has been a vocal critic of many changes from the “old times” as a Norwegian-dominated coal mining company town. But she said the expanded supermarket is a vast improvement from her early days of ordering goods once a month from the “company store.”

“There have been many changes since I came here, and I have been against most things,” she told the crowd. “What I was not against was that we got this store.”

In something of a fitting twist, when Sandvik arrived in 1973 the grocery store was located in the space Galleri Svalbard more recently occupied in Nybyen. But the gallery closed last month – and is relocating to the still-unfinished expanded second floor of the supermarket, which will also house a movie theater and the relocated local youth club.

Locals and visitors have generally offered enthusastic reviews during the soft openings the past few months, and those continued Friday.

“They have an impressive range to be at 78 degrees north. The store is absolutely fantastic,” Svalbardposten quoted Tommy and Karianne Anderssen as saying as they perused the new space after the ceremony.