“Hey, try a Sallie’s Coffee Shake - you don't need permission”.
You could not mistake the irony of the dynamic American woman, Sallie Zimmerhackel, when in September 1955 she described to Politiken’s journalist, Lise Nørgaard, how she succeeded in getting a motel and a snack bar on its feet on a bare field in Albertslund, far from Copenhagen.
“An atomic bomb in the guise of a woman” was Lise Nørgaard’s description of the dynamic American woman who came to Denmark to be a teacher at the American Embassy school in Copenhagen but ended up becoming a “bar mama” and entrepreneur. And today, she is still our source of inspiration for both the Wittrup Motel and Sallie’s Restaurant & Snack Bar.
Sallie and Mads Skjern
You could be suspicious that Lise Nørgaard had been inspired by Sallie when she created Mads Skjern in “Matador”. In the article in Politiken, Sallie tells about going begging and getting refusals for loans at Danish banks with “marble and nonsense on the walls and ceilings”. Instead, she ended up sending a letter to her old bank in Colorado and succeeded in raising the first 10,000 Dollars in start capital. The motel construction could begin.
However, the Danish banks were not the only challenge for Sallie. She almost went mad about Danish authorities because permits for everything had to be applied for.
“We had to have permits by the ton. Permit to exist, permit to build, permit to get a permit... gee ...” were the words Sallie used whose enthusiasm and commitment made a direct hit in the hearts of Danes.
Even today you can see tears in the eyes of those people who tell about the time with Sallie in Albertslund.
Motel and burger - two new concepts in Denmark
In many ways, Sallie started the American culture in Denmark. She was the first to serve a cheese burger in Denmark and the motel concept was also entirely new.
At one point, Sallie wondered why no guests at all came by even though she had informed the tourism offices in the area about the newly opened motel in Albertslund on the main road between Copenhagen and Roskilde. So, she called the tourism office:
“Do you have a room with a bath and space for my car?” she asked.
The lady at the tourism office replied: “I can assure you that such a place does not exist in Denmark.”
So, Sallie contacted the head of the tourism office: “Listen here, I am the owner of a new motel. All rooms have a bath and you can park right outside of every single room. And I have sent a message to the tourism offices about this. Then, when enquiring at the office, they say that such a place doesn’t exist?”
The head of the tourism office apologized and suggested a solution: “Yes well, the girls have no idea what a motel is. Could you not show them?”
And that’s what Sallie did. She invited the tourism agencies to visit and it helped immediately.
“Now they know what a motel looks like and last night we had a full house,” Sallie told Lise Nørgaard from Politiken.