This collaborative nature is also particularly evident in Sentrum’s various fashion businesses. “The atmosphere here is friendly and uncompetitive, so it feels very natural to join forces,” says Vegard Moberg Nilsen, owner of the modern clothing retailer Pepper. Featuring a well-edited selection of international designers, Pepper is largely credited with sparking the city’s interest in street fashion. He frequently partners with those around him in small but meaningful ways, whether by hiring local graphic design students to create content for his shop or helping promote new musical talent by inviting bands to perform at store events. Lot 333 is a similar contemporary clothing shop with a focus on European brands, and its neighbors at T-Michael offer expert bespoke tailoring services as well as run the rainwear company Norwegian Rain. High-tech and functional without compromising style, these raincoats are seen all over the neighborhood, sheltering its inhabitants from the 212 days of rain they see each year.
And then there’s the city’s diverse and internationally renowned music scene. “In a big city, you meet people who share your interests,” Eirik says. “In a smaller place, you meet all kinds of people with different interests.” Whether they’re more inclined toward dreamy indie-pop, progressive electronica or infamous Norwegian metal, the musicians in Bergen share everything from rehearsal spaces to band members. “We suddenly realized we needed drums in the studio last week,” he says. “Within an hour we found a professional drummer who played some beats for us while he was on lunch break from his orchestra.” Many people work in close proximity to each other in spaces such as Bergen Kjøtt, a four-story factory building that houses both an event space and studios for more than 300 artists and musicians. Behind the doors of its industrial facade, creativity and collaboration abound: “When so many people are gathered under one roof, grand ideas turn into grand opportunities,” says founder Annine Birkeland. “It’s common for peopleto work together here, partly because of the walls—they’re not quite soundproof, so things do leak out. The musician John Olav Nilsen often says that hearing others play can either spark a creative partnership or make it clear to you what kind of music you definitely don’t want to make!”
Regardless of taste, most Bergeners participate in the music scene in some way, especially students. “A lot of people move here at a young age to study, start a band and then continue to stay,” says Henrik Svanevik, owner of the indie book and record shop Robotbutikken. “This makes for a lot of bands, and a lot of bartenders.” Making up an entire tenth of Sentrum’s population, students are significant contributors to the youthful energy and enthusiasm felt around town. The faculty buildings of the University of Bergen are spread out all over the city center, so Sentrum itself functions as the university campus.
There’s a general acceptance among local small-business owners that in order to grow in such a small borough, everyone must share knowledge, including in Sentrum’s culinary sphere. “Luckily, that’s also the fun way of working,” says Christopher Haatuft, head chef and co-owner of a restaurant called Lysverket. Founded by a mixologist, a musician and two acclaimed chefs, this modern Nordic restaurant, craft cocktail bar and nightclub is just the kind of joint project that thrives here. It’s known for excellent drinks and inventive fjord-to- table fare, much of which is prepared with freshly foraged ingredients.
Christopher explains that every chef at every restaurant in town has worked together at some point, so they are all friends. Rivalry simply doesn’t exist. If he’s in need of business advice regarding financial matters, he can call up his closest competitor knowing they’ll open up. If he comes across an exceptional new supplier of produce, he’ll be the first to share the discovery with other restaurants. “The end goal is to encourage innovation and resourcefulness—something that will benefit not just the restaurant, but also the farmer, the farmer’s neighbor and our friends at the restaurant next door,” he says. “As a city, Bergen is lucky to know that everyone wants everyone else to succeed.”