JA, YOU CAN GET A REAL DANISH HERE

The Danish flag and lighting fixtures add to the atmosphere of the industrial space in the Galleria. (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

In the 105 years since its construction, the Galleria of Red Bank has had a revolving door for local business owners. Built as a uniform factory and presently  home to a spa, an “intuitive specialist,” a framing shop, restaurants and more, the brick building now touts a newly opened coffee shop.

However, to simply say ‘coffee shop’ is to the put the Danish Café in the same league as dime-a-dozen Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts shops.  Instead, husband-and-wife owners Claudi and Lone Kofod, above, are trying to expand American palates with a taste of Denmark’s delectable wienerbrød (pastries) and authentic frokost (lunch) dishes.

The Kofods are from the small island of Bornholm, population 42,000, where they were both born and raised. Married 27 years, they moved to the States three months ago on an investor visa to conquer the challenge of operating their own business in America.

The Danish Cafe has taken the space at the end of the hall, home in recent years to Urban Café and Tommy’s Café. (Click to enlarge)

“We wanted to get this business going as quick as possible because if we don’t get it up running within the next two years, we’re not having [the visa] renewed and then we’ll have to leave the country,” explained Lone.

The two-year window began in March; it took four months to pull the café together and ready it for a soft opening earlier this month. Since then, business has been slow, but “headed in the right direction,” according to Lone.

The space they acquired has seen its fair share of turnover in past year: the short-lived Urban Café, and before that, Tommy’s Café.

What makes this couple think they can make theirs last?

“We’re not just a café with bacon and eggs. We have our own menu and our danishes, which is our trademark. Everyone says they’re the best,” said Lone.

These are not factory-made Entenmann’s danishes. The Kofods’ specialties are homemade with ingredients shipped directly from Denmark. The dough is rolled out and layered with Danish butter, rolled again, and layered with more butter. The process can be long but creates a crispier flaky exterior. The centers are then filled with raspberry, apple, or Lone’s favorite, vanilla hazelnut. An American favorite, the cheese danish, cannot be found in Denmark but the Kofods offer it for their new clientele.

Aside from bakery items, the menu also includes traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches made on real rye bread, which is denser than that found in American grocery stores, as it’s made from rye and sunflower seeds. Sandwich options include spegepolse (salami) with peppers and onions or ham with italiensk salat (mayonnaise made with carrots and peas). The Kofods are also introducing an item that is popular in Denmark and has spread to Sweden: the hapsdog, a hollowed French baguette filled with curry mayonnaise and a frankfurter – perfect for lunch on the go.

“To open a café can be hard if you do it just like everybody else,” said Claudi. “We had to do something different so that’s why we chose the Danish Café. I think it’s important to tell people that this is how we do it in Denmark.”

The hardest adjustment so far, they say, has been leaving their social network. Lone grew teary-eyed as she spoke of missing her family, which includes their two grown children and her sister’s twin toddlers. Their biggest support system has been their fellow Galleria business owners. “We’ve met a lot of great, fantastic people here,” Lone said. “They are the best. We’re like a little family here, that’s what they told us.”

Lone said there is always the question of, “Did we do the right thing? But I think everybody moving to a new country or starting something new asks themselves that.”

Whether or not they make it past the next two years, they are both remaining positive. “We’re doing this because we have a dream and we say, ‘Let’s follow it,’ ” said Claudi. “We can’t stop now and say let’s go back, because then in five years, we’ll say, ‘Why did we stop there?’”

The Danish Café’s grand opening, complete with ribbon cutting by Mayor Pasquale Menna, special offers and samples, is slated for 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.