Interview with the owner of "Björkis", a shop for dog sledge accessories in Kiruna (November 2016 & March 2017)
Gregor Kallina: How did your family start in Kiruna?
Sune Stralberg: I was born in 1951, my father was working in the mine and also my grandfather started to work in the mine in 1936, with only a shovel in his hands. I started at LKAB in 1969 as a summer job, the same year as the big sitting strike took place, which started at Svapavaara about the accord agreement. So workers did not get any money except from the strike committee. The mine was closed for three months. People from whole Sweden were sending money to support us. My father got hurt badly once and had to stop working underground, he became a guard instead.
THE FIRST SLEDGE
When did you start your business?
This year we are celebrating 40 years anniversary of the shop, since i made the first sledge in 1977, i was still at LKAB at that time. I started to make the sledges in a flat and in 1985 we moved to an apartment, where i also had a big basement to make the sledges. The production we left to my wife`s father who was a carpenter near the finish border. So i was working at LKAB and in the evening i came home to put together the sledge parts. I learnt everything from scratch. In 1985 i left LKAB, as they laid off workers, to concentrate on my own business. In 1992 i got a license for dog food for whole Sweden. By then we opened a store. I also could rent the old fire garage of LKAB, as i was one of their firemen and i moved the sledge production over there, together with my father-in-law. Already at that time i knew i had to move from there again, so now the sledge production is in a factory in Skellefteå. I bring the parts from there and put them together here in the shop upstairs in a loft, which was paid by LKAB. So that at least was a good deal with them.
MOVING BECAUSE OF THE MINE
How does the city transformation affect your business?
I am the first man in the history of Kiruna who had to move his shop because of the mine.
The store i had before this one was rented from LKAB. I was not offered any alternative place by them at that time. They did not have a plan. So we started to sit together with LKAB to find a solution. SEK 12000,- was the rent before, SEK 60.000,- now since 2014. Everything in here cost about 2 million SEK to being rebuilt, which we never got back. We had to fight with LKAB, now for other shop owners it is much easier as LKAB comes up already with a plan to find a new place in the new shopping mall and they pay to build it. For me the situation was bad, because i was the first one. I lost millions and LKAB refused to reimburse me afterwards. If you have a store in the new city and a store in the old city, they will pay for both, including constructing the new one, until you move there. Then you get a rent allowance which decreases over five years, similar to the residental buildings. When we asked for it, they said, if we have to give it to you, then we have to give it to everybody else. Now everybody gets it, but not us. That´s why i do not like LKAB when it comes to Stadsumvandlingen, otherwise it is a good company.