The Local Business – Photos from Wong’s Takeaway to RC Dry Cleaners

Photo Exhibition at the Museum of Copenhagen from 1 May to 20 October 2024

Copenhagen’s small businesses are often declared in danger of extinction as they battle to survive competition from chain stores and shopping centres. Photographer Ulf Svane and historian Mathias Kobberrød Rasmussen take us to the Copenhagen dog salon, jewellers, dry cleaners and other enterprises in the Danish capital to give us a snapshot of the businesses and their proprietors. Join us on a tour of a colourful world of charismatic retailers and a hotchpotch of style and local spirit far removed from the city’s department stores. 
See the exhibition at the Museum of Copenhagen just behind Copenhagen City Hall. The exhibtion is part of the Copehagen Photo Festival.

Pre-Internet Community Spirit

It is a familiar sight. The local business on the corner that has been providing the neighbourhood with a new dress, a bite to eat or a haircut for generations. Providing a service that comes complete with local stories, personal service and a unique atmosphere. Small businesses from the days before online shopping and shopping centres – and a city predating urban regeneration, gentrification and global consumerism.  

Creative Revivals and Quiet Closures

The Museum of Copenhagen’s new photography exhibition invites visitors inside some of Copenhagen’s niche businesses and service providers, from the Venetian blind cleaners in Vanløse on the outskirts of Copenhagen to Wong’s Takeaway in suburban Hvidovre. Some of them are threatened with closure, whereas others have found a new lease of life – reinventing themselves and finding new ways to survive into the future. As in so many cities in the world some are as busy as ever, whereas for others time has stood still.    

A Snapshot Here and Now

The photography exhibition provides a snapshot of life in 2020-2023 when photographer Ulf Svane and historian Mathias Kobberrød Rasmussen visited a selection of small business owners and started to document life behind the shop fronts. In collaboration with Ulf and Mathias, the Museum of Copenhagen has selected 20 local businesses that tell the story of a changing city and the impact technology, shopping habits, demographics and politics have on urban development. Since 2022 some of the businesses have closed and others have been converted into something else, but most of them are still with us. The question is for how long, and what it will take for these small, diverse businesses to play a role in the Copenhagen of the future.

Photographic History

Visitors can also explore a whole century of The Local Business in a selection of shop photographs from the Museum of Copenhagen’s vast archive. Maybe you can spot some of the places from the exhibition – or something similar from your own neighbourhood? The photographs were taken all over Copenhagen during the 1900s. Some are of proud shopkeepers in front of their businesses, some are of shop fronts or interiors, and some are photographic documentation of businesses that have gone out of business. 

A Family-Run Café 

The Museum of Copenhagen also has a small family business of its own. Café Spirrevippen is a mother-and-son enterprise serving excellent coffee, a selection of baked good, breakfast and light lunches.

Mais Gardiner - indehaver bag disken
Ulf Svane