The modern over-the-counter store in Helsinki

Alko, the Finnish retail seller of alcoholic beverages, had its Töölöntori store in Helsinki renovated in 1930s style as part of he company’s 85th anniversary celebrations. The unique nostalgia store was designed by design agency Kuudes.

Alko Töölöntori store
The solid oak service counter acts as the store's cash desk.

WHEN ALKO CELEBRATED ITS 85 YEARS, the company’s Töölöntori store in Helsinki was renovated in the traditional over-the-counter style. The design agency Kuudes, recognized with several Red Dot Award and Vuoden Huiput awards, designed the interior of the nostalgia store including the light fixtures, packages and staff clothing. The result is a unique commercial space that honors the building's 1930s architecture. The store was opened to the public in September 2017.

Interior architect Juha Koskinen, the head designer of the project, what were the starting points for designing Alko’s nostalgia store?
“We had recently revised Alko’s store concept and designed and carried out the renovation of the Arkadia flagship store. After these successful projects, Alko asked us to also carry out the unique nostalgia store at Töölöntori. As a design project this was a perfect case!

Alko Töölöntori store
Design agency Kuudes also designed the packages and staff clothing for the Töölöntori store.

“Alko wanted the Töölöntori store to be something that didn't exist anywhere else.”

They wanted to have two sections in the store, the front part would be the actual nostalgia store, and the back part would be a self-service store according to the new concept. The goal was to create a different and inspiring buying environment, which would bring to the customers a unique experience and bring forth the products in a new way. Alko wanted the Töölöntori store to be something that didn’t exist anywhere else.”

Alko Töölöntori store
The materials were chosen to fit the 1930s style.
Alko Töölöntori store
The unique brass light fixtures catch the eye.

What was the most challenging part of the project?
“An old existing environment always brings its own challenges to a project. Their successful solving will determine how impressive the end result will be.

For the part of Töölöntori, one of the biggest challenges was how to bring the front space back to its original state. The old store was full of technical apparatus that had to be re-located, removed or hidden. The clean and symmetrical lines are part of the spirit of the times we were aiming at, and they do not include data terminals or visible electrical cabling.

The counter still had to be ergonomic and include modern technology and yet look like a credible 1930s piece of furniture.”

Alko Töölöntori store
A self-service store according to the new Alko concept is at the back of the commercial space. This space is dominated by black metal elements.
Alko Töölöntori store
The store is designed down to the smallest detail.

Would you like to tell something about the design and choice of materials?
“In this project, the background for all the design solutions was a strong image of the history of Alko’s over-the-counter stores. However, we did not want to make a copy of the old, but maintain a freedom for our own interpretation that was based on the references.

Naturally, the chosen period was the 1930s of Alko’s beginnings. The style of the era is the background for all the choices of materials and for the interior design in general. The goal was to keep the contrast between the nostalgia store and the self-service store clear and even to emphasize the interfaces.

“The unique, atmospheric lighting was custom-designed for the store.”

New store furniture out of solid oak was designed for the front part’s nostalgia store. The furniture includes decorative moldings, various details and brass parts, while the self-service store has fewer oak parts and the main emphasis is on black metal parts. We felt it especially important for the part of credibility to have the focus on a lighting that would fit the 1930s atmosphere. The nostalgia store’s unique, atmospheric lighting was custom-designed for the space.”

Alko Töölöntori store
The Töölöntori postal code is a part of the nostalgia store’s visual identity.

What made the end result a success?
“The Töölöntori renovation was especially successful because our customer had the courage to do things differently and to trust our points of view. At Alko, they believed that putting effort into a store would bring added value.”

Alko Töölöntori
Sandelsinkatu 4, 00260 Helsinki

Text: Laura Hallikainen Photos: Juuso Salakka and Paavo Lehtonen

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