Selma Gerdin founded two businesses in the 1920s, Nora Bazaar and Nora Ice Cream. Even today, the latter constitutes a vital part of Nora’s tourist business.
Selma Gerdin was born in 1884 in the Norrland parish of Skön. She was the illegitimate daughter of Brita Sofia Zakrisdotter. Her mother had three children to support when she married the village teacher, Olof Persson Lindgren, in 1907. He was the father of her youngest daughter. Selma Gerdin and her younger siblings were taught at home by Olof Persson Lindgren, but apart from that, nothing is known about her childhood years. Selma Gerdin’s brother, Johan Erik Lindgren, came to be known as ”Stor-Johan”. For a number of years, he ran a travelling funfair, before settling down in Stockholm. There he started the funfair AB Nöjesfältet, a competitor to the famous Stockholm funfair Gröna Lund. His son and grandson took over the running of AB Nöjesfältet in their turn. Selma Gerdin sometimes accompanied her brother and sold waffles at the funfair.
In 1905, at the age of 21, Selma Gerdin married the painter and decorator Jonas Gerdin, 17 years older than herself. Together they had four children in six years: Aina, Göte, Svea, and Elsa. In 1909, they moved from the little village of Hässjö to Gävle, but Jonas Gerdin did not succeed in supporting his family there either. In 1923, Selma Gerdin took her four children and moved a little over 200 kilometres away to Nora. The spouses never got divorced, but lived separately thereafter.
Once settled in Nora, Selma Gerdin showed evidence of great enterprise and a good head for business. She opened a smallish shop selling buttons, needles and other everyday goods. Connected to the shop was a bakery that she was soon able to acquire to bake waffles once again. These were sold at the markets and meetings that were a recurrent element in the life of the town. Before long she also took over a nearby wholesale business and had thereby created her own little emporium, Nora Bazaar, that she ran with good profit with the help of her children and several employees. Even though she and her husband were never reunited, he did come and help her with the Christmas decorations. He died after a short period of illness in 1929.
It was however waffles for the markets that turned out to be Selma Gerdin’s most important enterprise, when she started serving them with home-made ice cream that was made by hand in the laundry of their house. Ice cream manufacturing had been known in Sweden as long ago as the 1700s, and it was mentioned by Cajsa Warg among others. Selma Gerdin made ice cream using fresh ingredients with the flavours vanilla and wild strawberry, and in a short time it became so popular that the marketing signs were changed from advertising ”Wofflor” (Waffles) to ”Glace” (Ice Cream). The ice cream was sold from a wagon on the square in Nora, and everywhere else where there was a market or festival, sometimes even as far away as Karlskrona and Örebro. Sandwiches made from the bread baked in their own bakery were also on sale, but it was the ice cream that attracted buyers from far and near, so much so that some days Nora Bazaar quite simply had to close since the salespeople were needed to hack up ice and mix ice cream. In 1936, Selma Gerdin sold her business enterprise to be able to spend all her time making ice cream.
Selma Gerdin was seen as a hard worker, demanding but fair. The whole family including grandchildren and eventually even her second husband, Evald Idemo, were engaged in making ice cream. The 1930s involved a transition to motorised ice cream machines, but the ice cream was still made fresh every day according to a secret recipe. Selma Gerdin herself was not a terribly sociable person, so she was the boss of the ice cream manufacturing while the younger family members had to take care of the sales. For this they received ten percent of the total income, even Gull-Maj Schollin, a granddaughter who in 1945 received special permission from the Child Care Committee (Barnavårdsnämnden) to do paid work in the company at the age of ten. As extra seasonal workers, Selma Gerdin employed women first and foremost: housewives who baked the waffles, and schoolgirls who sold the ice cream. In the 1950s, new demands came about homogenising milk and pasturising the ice cream. New, modern machines appeared that were not dependent upon a supply of ice. The machines were however not portable, and from having been a partially itinerant enterprise, the manufacture and sales of Selma Gerdin’s ice cream became tied to Nora. In 1957, in connection with the purchase of the new machines and after a period of illness, Selma Gerdin chose to hand over her enterprise to her youngest daughter, Elsa Schollin. From having been more of a seasonal operation, ice cream manufacturing now became an all-year-round activity, although it retained its small-scale craftsmanship.
Selma Gerdin stayed in Nora all her life. She died in 1963, and lies buried in the Northern Cemetery in Nora, in the same grave as her first husband. The company she founded remained in the family’s ownership for 50 seasons, until 1972, when new owners took over. Despite the fact that freezers and the mass production of a great selection of ice creams has since then become standard, Nora Ice Cream has continued to be run according to the successful recipe of small-scale, craftsman-like manufacturing of ice cream that is always freshly made every day. This ice cream is a vital component of Nora’s tourist trade, and it is sold not only in the classical kiosk on the square but also in the Café Strandstugan, as well as in the waffle café Selma G, newly opened in 2014.