Monday, June 8, 2009

Veljekset Keskinen - A monument to questionable taste

In the middle of nowhere, Etelä-Pohjanmaa (sometimes described as the Texas of Finland), you will find the village of Tuuri (Luck). Tuuri has the dubious distinction of being home to Veljekset Keskinen - "The Biggest Village Shop in the world".

Known in Finnish simply as "Keskinen", this place is something you have to see to believe.

This photo doesn't do the Keskinen complex justice. With regards to Keskinen, a photo is not worth a thousand words. Parking for thousands of cars, the crazy stuff in the yard, the other merchants building their stores close by, trying to get a piece of the magic action.

Another view of the entrance to the store, which by the way, is a farmhouse from the 1700's. You can tell that its an Etelä-Pohjanmaa house just by counting windows. Finns from other regions used to experience feelings of inadequacy and outrage when confronted by the sheer number of windows on an Etelä-Pojanmaa farmhouse.

As far as department stores go, Keskinen is alright. Lots of stuff for sale. I recommend the experience to anyone who visits Finland. Just tell your hosts that you want to go to Keskinen. Everyone knows where it is. If you can't get a ride, don't worry, Keskinen has its own train station, with connections to Seinäjoki and Pieksämäki.

The man behind the dream, Vesa Keskinen, is a fifth generation peddler. He's seems to be doing alright financially, but after just one look at his house it becomes obvious that having money doesn't necessarily mean having good taste.

Yes, those are unicorns.

And angels among faux-marble columns.

This rotating globe statue is located on the viewing deck situated across the stream from Vesa Keskinen's house. The text reads "From the Village Shop to an International tourist attraction" in several languages. I guess it is international since busloads of Russian shoppers arrive weekly, and at least one American has visited a few times...

Vesa Keskinen is something of a hillbilly enigma. He's a huge fan of Donald Duck comics, in fact he paid an undisclosed sum to Disney to produce a special Keskinen Edition compilation book containing his favorite Donald Duck cartoons. He sponsors fishing contests and dog shows, and every now and then he flies to Brazil to pick up a new "girlfriend". When he throws his annual rockfest, Twisted Sister is sure to be performing. He's known for his expensive cars and for his donations to Finnish war veterans. If he's not in court, he seems to have a case pending. He has been voted Young Finnish Capitalist of the Year or something like that. He's dated all the ladies from the afternoon papers.

Adjacent to the "village store" is the Keskinen Hotel and grocery store. You enter the grocery store through the hotel entrance which is decorated in a McDonald's meets Morocco theme. I should have taken pictures of the tasteless magnificence, but I wouldn't want to spoil the experience for potential visitors.

The exterior of the hotel/grocery store.

Looks like Vesa forgot to fancy up a big part of his empire. Perhaps something fabulous is in the works.

The Keskinen logo can be found on everything, from fast-food wrappers to fine china. And its all available for purchase.

The Statue of Liberty of Finnish Capitalism.


  1. He was sounding like Sam Walton at first, but became much more interesting as you tale continued. Definitely more of a Donald Trump in the taste department. However, Trump never had the good sense to get his girlfriends from Brazil. His luck will surely run out soon since his horse shoe is upside down;af allowing all of the good luck to flow out through the force of gravity. Considering his taste level and exhibitionism, this might be in the best interest of us all.

  2. Ah ah ah, your blog is really a must :D I will print every page and take it with me as a tourist guide next time I venture out of uusimaa :D

  3. Well, it is tasteless, but still seems worth visiting.

    Whenever I'm in Finland, I'll go straight there and have a longer look at those logos :)