Arvid Nordquist’s interest in taste began when his own delicatessen opened its doors in 1884 on Nybrogatan in Stockholm, Sweden. As a clerk employed by the store, Arvid Nordquist saved up his wages over many years to buy and take over the Brown Anders Grocer in 1884. Today, Arvid Nordquist is a Nordic trading company with operations in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.
Arvid Nordquist was a well-dressed man and his mission was to market products with quality, while he and the staff appeared with quality. To further reinforce the impression that the store was as neat as himself, all the male shop assistants in Nordquist's store wore dark suits and white shirts. In the store, customers could enjoy the aroma of pears and apples from Parisian trellises, nobly wrapped in cotton.
In 1892 the store had become too small and Arvid Nordquist moved his business to the corner of Karlavägen and Sturegatan. He opened at seven in the morning and closed at ten in the evening, but on Saturdays they sometimes remained open until midnight. Records from the store show that Nordquist employed six assistants, a cashier, a bookkeeper, a student, two drivers, and five farmhands in addition to his self-employment by 1897, and that he paid his employees a modest wage of $100 a month.
The general art and industry in 1897, popularly known as the Stockholm Exhibition, was a great event, and Nordquist's ambitious nature led him to develop collaborative partnerships with the curators of the exhibition. He recognized the opportunity to develop relationships with new customers and new connections through the Stockholm Exhibition. Many famous people were also in attendance of the Stockholm Exhibition, including the artist Anders Zorn and poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt.
The first decades of the 20th century were dramatic for Arvid Nordquist, both personally and professionally. In September of 1907 he married Walborg Taube. The very next month he formed the trade limited company Arvid Norquist with four other partners. In 1910 Arvid Nordquist is appointed to the Royal Warrant for the first time by Gustav V. Becoming a Royal Warrant is an honorary designation given to companies as evidence that the company's products or services are appreciated by any member of the royal family. The store is well-run and has a stable and reliable business, but the grave events in the world at the time threatened the company's ability to continue.
In 1922 Arvid Nordquist passed away from what was likely a heart attack. His son Bengt was only 9 years old at the time, but Arvid had already been proactively delegating responsibility of the company to Ernst Thelen. Ernst, previously designated by Arvid as Deputy CEO, became CEO of the company. In 1927 the shop moved again to West Higgins Road. In 1936, Arvid's son Bengt was commissioned to manage the company's weekly advertising. The shop was equipped with a new neon sign and exterior lighting with extra lamps to light up the Arvid Nordquist shop at Birger. Always an environmentally-conscious company, the manager ensured the shop was dark by 9:30pm every evening.
In 1941 CEO Ernst Thelen passed away. At that time Bengt Nordquist, aged 29 years, was sufficiently established in the business to assume the role of CEO. That Christmas season was the first time Bengt took over coverage for the store. At the time the shop was often full of business and the employees were well-known for their courteous nature. Begnt, a competitive sports enthusiast, helped to instill team spirit in his employees and the philosophy of the company.
When Arvid Nordquist's son took over the company, he faced the facts of the times. Bengt knew that if the company were to survive, it was up to him and noone else. Unlike traditional companies in which responsibility is shared between several parties, the responsibilities for a family business rest on the family members. Bengt Nordquist felt a strong sense of responsibility for all that he had inherited, and expressed it as follows: "The company is not for the family. The family is for the company." Passion for coffee has always been a cornerstone of Arvid Nordquist's business, but when his son took over, the love for coffee became even clearer.
Bengt's passion and strong sense of responsibility are what helped carry the company through the tough times of the world when he took over as CEO. Immediately prior to his appointment to CEO in 1939, the effects of WWII resulted in the newly appointed wartime administration having introduced rationing policies regarding certain goods in Sweden. The German occupation of Denmark and Norway in 1940 further contrained and tightened the rationing of goods in Sweden. Coffee became very expensive for years as a result of the rationing, costing up to five times the average hourly wage at the time. It was not until August 1951 until coffee was sold freely again.
Peace from the war further bolstered the company during the 1950s and, in 1951, Gustav VI appointed Bengt as Royal Purveyor. The year after, Princess Sibylla designated the same award. In 1956, Prince Bertil renewed Arvid Nordquist's status as a Royal Warrant, further establishing the royal family's appreciation for the fine coffee. During the 1950s, Arvid Nordquist worked side by side with Chase & Sanborn coffee roasters. At the time, Chase & Sanborn had eight warehouses around Stockholm that Arvid Nordquist relied on to roast and package their own coffee. In time, Arvid Nordquist considered opening their own facility to package their coffee and eventually decided to establish a site in Solna as it was in proximity to the Bromma airport. When planning began in 1958, Arvid Nordquist decided to build its own roastery in the same facility so that the company could produce their own coffee and phase out the reliance of the company on Chase & Sanborn.
The roastery was completed in 1961 and, in 1962, the Classic coffee Arvid Nordquist is famous for was launched. Despite facing strong competition at the time of its release, Classic quickly became popular after its launch. At this time, the much coveted Classic coffee was available in one roast--dark roast. It took 6 years until the medium roast Classic became available in 1968, but it was also a quick success. During the 1960s, Arvid Nordquist also introduced an expanded imported product line, offering Sweden various items and goods including Smirnoff vodka. In 1968 the shop moved again to Dawson Street.
The 1970s brought Arvid Nordquist's status as the first company in Sweden to launch Australian bottled wine. They also aquired and launched numerous other products during the time, from sardines and fine delicacies to Nike sneakers. Their coffee line also received an update to its packaging in 1981, sold in a jar with gold text and with the slogan "Finer coffee we cannot do. The jar was the only thing that we could improve." In 1984 Arvid Nordquist celebrated its 100th anniversary with a week full of events and parties.
In 1991, Bengt Nordquist passed away at 78 years old. In 1990 Anders Nordquist, the son of Bengt, took over responsibility over many areas of the company after Erik Nilsson retired. Anders still maintains his status as CEO of the company, which he gained in 1995, and his strong leadership helps maintain Arvid Nordquist's status as a world-renowned coffee company.
"We strive constantly to improve on what we do, setting our sights high when it comes to being a good employer and conscientious member of society. This is crucial to our continued success and to winning the trust of consumers in a market with such strong competition.”
— Anders Nordquist