It’s a warm last day of May and the sun is high up on the sky as we arrive, in the little motorboat, at Fejan, in Stockholm’s outer archipelago. “Look at the new terrace,” Pelle Lydmar exclaims, and points up towards the house. “There are lot of things going on now” he continues. The restoration work is still going full-tilt, with only a couple of weeks to go until the opening. At the same time it’s peaceful and quiet on the little island. They have been working on this old restaurant project for several months and have now finally made it in to the last stretch.
Everything began on a late night last year. “I was at home, watching TV when I got a message from a friend that Skärgårdsstiftelsen (The Archipelago Foundation) were looking for a new tenant for Fejan. I applied immediately and early the following morning they called me up and asked if I wanted to take over,” Pelle explains. There has been an archipelago restaurant and a hostel on the island since the 1990s, but ever since the fire in 2015 it’s been been empty. When they once again open up the operation under the stewardship of Pelle Lydmar, together with Elias Eliasson, Madde Olofsson and Kalle Landqvist, there will be the restaurant, a hostel, two houses for rent, a conference space and a sauna just beside the ocean.
The motto is ‘simple and generous’. It’s a common thread throughout the whole operation. For them it’s not about making money, the motivation is creating that real archipelago experience. “This is a thing you very much do with your heart. You are a part of the archipelago and you play your part. That’s a lot more important than making money. My business goal is the happiness from running this place, not to make money,” Pelle says. For him the archipelago is a near-sacred place. He tells me that he spent more or less the whole summers there as a kid. “I kind of find satisfaction, all the way out here at the edges of the archipelago. I’m crazy about the ocean.” You reach the little island in about ten minutes with your own boat or around half an hour with the public boat from Räfsnäs outside of Norrtälje.
Just above the pier there’s a red house with a large porch that weaves halfway around the building. The house is completely new-built and replaces the house that burned down. Inside we’re met by what will soon be a dining room. So far there’s no furniture, but shortly the large, light room will be adorned by armchairs, couches as well as dining tables and bar tables, plus an open kitchen. “It will be very mixed, high and low, we want it to have the feeling of someone’s living room in here,” Pelle says as he points around the room. The restaurant will offer authentic archipelago food, especially fish. Furthermore, they put emphasis on the food being locally-sourced. At the moment they are working towards a license to buy fish directly from the local fishermen.
A bit further into the island lies what will function as the hostel. The house has its own history. At the end of the 1800s and up until the 1930s, Fejan was as a quarantine station for the cholera-infected. The building that today is going to become a hostel was then established as the Wasa Hospital. The house next door is the so called Villa Kongo, one of the houses available for rent. Pelle and Elias explains that the house was originally intended to be a missionary station in the Congo, but for some reason ended up on Fejan in the Stockholm archipelago. The reason for the building being so unusually tall, they guess, is the warm climate in the Congo. Today, there are only six people who live on the island year-round, and 40 or so guests who move here during the summer months. “Everyone is very positive about us re-opening. But it’s all about working together with the locals. We cannot come here as Stockholmers and just think that we can do this. That’s why it’s so important to have a good attitude and collaborate with the locals.” Pelle, already behind places like Strandvägen 1, Lydmar Hotel and Eataly Stockholm in the city, points out that the operation at Fejan differs very much from his other ventures. “In the city, the competition is very strong, out here it’s less of an issue. It’s the archipelago experience that is important. Plus the season is very short. If you do this, you’re only doing it with your heart”.