Björn Thunborg Viltaffaffär AB
From Market Lorry to Seaplane
The founder of Viltaffär, Björn Thunborg, his career in trading at an early age. As a 10-year-old, he cobbled together a vendor's tray from which he peddled shoelaces, shaving soap, razor blades, combs and all sorts of other necessities. Earning his own keep, and not having to rely on the support of others, was an accomplishment that made him even then very proud. Another source of income that Björn tapped into was the delivery of telegrams and telephone messages to the workers' village of the Harsprånget power station which now has been abandoned and reclaimed by the forest. No matter how inclement the weather, Björn would always make the deliveries on time. Blizzards nor summer storms could stop him.
After a short interlude in both Stockholm and at sea as a cabin boy, Björn established a trucking company in Soderhamn. However, the far north kept calling and before long Björn returned to Jokkmokk where he founded his Viltaffär. In 1959 Björn bought and sold his first reindeer hides on the winter market in Jokkmokk. Trade unbound in anything and everything was not only Björn's profession but also his passion throughout life. So much so that Björn used to work, eat and sleep in his shop-on-wheels as he moved from one settlement to the next in the greater Jokkmokk area. Over time, the business focused on the products of Lapland's abundant nature. The trade in wildlife products drove the continuous growth of Björn's trading business.
The Lapland Shop
In the 1970s Björn opened a small shop at his home in Porjus where he fishing nets, hooks, rope, spades and a great many other utilities for local and visiting outdoors enthusiasts as well as locally crafted Sami souvenirs for the discerning tourist. At around the same time, the trade in lake fish, reindeer and moose meat took on ever greater proportions. In the early eighties, Björn obtained his wings by becoming a licensed pilot. From then on he'd fly out to get the much sought-after mountain trout in person. He didn't stick to flying around fish either and soon enough was ferrying people - both local Sami and tourists - to and from the summer camps in the rugged mountains on the Norwegian border.
An all-purpose hand-made billboard
At the close of the 1980s, an unsuspecting German tourist, while on her very first trip to faraway Lapland way above the Arctic Circle, discovered Björn's quaint shop in Porjus. It was the rather haphazardly hand-painted sign on the wall that first caught her attention. It provided a wealth of details in both German and English about the many exotic goods for sale inside: reindeer skins, smoked fish and locally crafted mementos. It would prove to be something entirely different, and unexpected, that this tourist found: Great Love. For the historical record however it must be mentioned that it took a while until both realized the extend of their feelings.
A Wedding in Saltoluokta
In any case, to Björn's it was a classic case of love at first sight, as he confessed to much later. The German lady from Mönchengladbach and the Laplander stayed in close touch and, after countless trips and visits, became a pair in 1990. The following year, on Midsummer Day, Birgit and Björn celebrated their wedding in Saltoluokta. The ceremony took place in a Kirchenkåta (a chapel in the style of a root cellar).
In 1994 Asbjörn was born. It soon transpired that young Asbjörn had inherited his father's business acumen. At the tender age of six, he already wanted to operate his own shop and to this end he bought an old caravan from his father for the princely sum of five crowns. Now properly equipped, Asbjörn opened his very own souvenir shop in order to cater to the increasing number of tourists. Asbjörn soon discovered that he could cash in particularly handsomely on the German tourists who of course never failed to be surprised to find the small-boy-turned-shopkeeper in full and flawless command of their own language. After his first successful summer season as a trader there was no doubt left in Asbjörn's mind: he would remain a businessman. His old caravan is still sitting on the premises, but Asbjörn may now be found behind the counter of the Viltaffär shop.
Björns Viltaffär – A trip lasting half a century
Over the years, conditions have changed quite dramatically for the communities along the Lule River which has in turn affected the Viltaffär. Commercial fishing has all but vanished and the fish trade has moved from wholesale to retail. Over the years, the shop's many patrons secured the establishment of a firm customer base centered in, but by no means exclusive to, Germany. After Sweden's accession to the European Union, the delivery of the delicacies across borders gained in importance. Although the Viltaffär's business model has changed over time, the little shop in Porjus remained largely unaltered. Visitors from far and near keep coming back and continue to be awed by the seemingly endless variety of goods on offer in such an exceedingly small space.
In September 2010, Björn Thunborg passed away. Since then Asbjörn and Birgit have kept the Viltaffär going just as its founder had wished.
Birgit and Asbjörn now want to realize their vision of a Viltaffär on the web: The Laponiashop. They are opening the doors of the small Viltaffär to the world in order to make the delicacies and the unique arts and crafts of Laponia available to all. The Laponia web shop is still under construction, but will soon be online.
Welcome to the Viltaffär in Porjus - or, in time - to the online Laponiashop!