The story of Retro


A little while back, I got my hands on an old pamphlet from 1970. On the front page I could recognize the building in one of the pictures. It was Café Retro’s building, really, really long time ago, before it was even a café.

I started reading…

The adventures of Knabrostræde 26!

If you are as curious as me, you might have wondered how it all started. Why the name Retro? What was the big plan for this place? What was there before Cafe Retro? and was it all somehow related to today's Retro?


When I first started to go to Café Retro, I asked some of the bar members and some team leaders, if they knew anything about Retro. I got answers like: “it’s 12 years old, and, all the furniture was donated a long time ago”. Back then I didn’t need more answers, it was all fine, but the more I went to Retro, the more those answers did not fulfill my curiosity anymore. I had so many questions, that no one seemed to be able to answer. I knew then, that I had to dig a little deeper if I wanted to get any answers. As a detective, I started looking around for clues, and people to target my many questions towards. And so the adventure started.

Back in 1970

Let’s start from the beginning, or as far back as I was able to get.

1970 was an interesting time. People seemed to have forgotten how to cut their hair and what colors went well together. Music was booming with great artists like ABBA and the Bee Gees. And somehow the pants couldn’t get wide enough. People wanted to be free from the strict sixties and who could blame them? “Flower power” movements with peace and love signs, were everywhere. Youth turned to different kinds of drugs like LSD, marijuana and Cocaine to get an ‘out of body’ experience, and I guess also to not be bored. (don’t do it though!)

Anyways, all these activities made a group of Christians, back then, worry and then it all began…

In the little pamphlet I found from 1970, written by ‘Unge Kristne’, it said:

The idea behind this was crazy, or an act of desperation. During many months we have been looking through ‘Berlingeren’s (the title of a newspaper)…to find a house we could use to help addicts from the streets and homeless with a place to rest.  Poul Jensen, my wife, Tove, and I (Johny Noer) went out one afternoon to find the house the Lord wanted to give for this mission. But the idea was crazy.

…and suddenly we were standing in front of a yellow, 4 floor building. On the facade of the building it had a sign from 1783 - Deo soli gloria, to God all the glory. While standing there and pondering, a man came to us and told us the house was for sale…

The house was then bought and the mission to help people began. Many years went by, and in another pamphlet that I found, stories were told about the drug addicts who found a better life, and about how this place was a meeting place for young Christians, who wanted to make a difference in the world.

An intense beginning for an interesting place!

Café Retro’s beginning

Many years later in 2003, a young woman Rie Skårhøj and about 15 of her friends, from the Bethlehem's church, decided they would like to make a positive change in the world and in Copenhagen as well.

The idea was to open a cafe, and make a difference for people who were less privileged, by donating all the profit for a good cause. This was meant to be a place for youth... opened for Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, etc., who could enjoy a good cold beer together in peace and respect.

As we might all know, it’s always hard to start new things, and with not enough money and no place to build a café, the dream can quickly shatter into a million little pieces. I think I’m a bit overdramatizing this, but you probably get the point. So, already a year later in 2004, Rie and her friends gathered in her living room to talk about canceling the whole project. Money is always the problem… isn’t it?  

It gets better I promise!

In the meantime Rie's cell phone started ringing. It was the 'Unge Kristne'. (The Christian organisation who helped drug addicts in 1970). They had heard that Rie and her friends were starting a café, and they had a place in Knabrostræde 26 that they didn't had much use for any longer. You guessed it right! They could rent it real cheap and Retro was about to be born. 

In the summer of 2004 they began to renovate the place and now more friends came to help. About 70 volunteers were working at one point. The furniture was found in a flea market and ended up costing 500 kr. This included transportation as well! 

The whole café was made with money from the volunteers’ own pockets, and a loan from a rich friend. They worked all summer to get the place ready for the grand opening and about 10 minute before the 300 guest came tumbling in, they had the last things fixed.

For the first four years of Retro’s existence, the profit went to Sewa Ashram in India. It was a rehabilitation center, that helped people from the streets with drug abuse problems, to become addiction-free.
In 2008 Retro had enough money to start its own projects, and they chose Sierra Leone as location. Retro help enabled women and educate them so they could take care of themselves and loved ones. Retro is still supporting these projects today

The name Retro!

You may have been wondering where the name Retro came from. The name came when they were buying all the old furnitures from the flea market. They looked Retro.

I like to think that the name Retro has a deeper meaning than just the furniture's appearance. I’ve been pondering before I knew this boring truth, so I share it with you here.

Retro stands for: Familiar good old times.

You can sit with friends, play a good boardgame, talk about “deep” stuff, and play foosball, enjoy a cold beer and listen to live music. That’s what it means to me. You are welcome to have your own interpretations.

So, here it is for you, a little Retro history. I definitely enjoyed going around looking for information and tracking my way back to the beginning.

I found out that Retro is not just a place to enjoy with friends, but almost a "person" defined by all the people who voluntarily use their free time to make it happen. (I know, I’m going all sentimental on you, but hear me out) They have a heart to help others, both near and far, and welcoming everybody regardless of their nationalities or religion. I really like that! It’s almost like a family, everybody is welcome to join. Okay enough with the sugar.

Here at the end I like to thank Christina Lund Villadsen, who’s been giving me most of the information I used for this blog post. She was there all the way back from the start, and made the PR for the café, the first 4 years, and of course also Rie Skårhøj, who was in charge and the administrator behind the café, and provided me with information and pictures as well.

I really hope you all enjoyed this post, and you feel informed on a whole new Retro level, I definitely loved writing it!

Take care <3

Daniella de Lopes