In the heart of Helsinki you can find a very unique gift shop where you can find items like globes, hot air balloons, telescopes, medieval astronomical devices, and the Hedwig owl, known from Harry Potter. This is a brick and mortar shop Alnilam, located on Lönnrotinkatu since 2003, specializing in astronomy, globes and science fiction fandom products. Alnilam’s proud owner, Anu Rainela-Lankinen, greets everyone with a smile. The shelves on the walls are full of science sets and building kits, feather pens and maps, scientific brass instruments and beautiful handicrafts, among with Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Dr. Who fandom items. The store is small and intimate – it’s like a whole world of its own.
THE STORY OF THE STAR SHOP
“My eldest son was searching a hobby for himself when he started school. He wasn’t interested in soccer or hockey. Then he saw the announcement of an astronomy club learning to recognize star patterns, and joined there. One night he dragged me out and said, “Mom, look. That’s Orion.” I had always been interested in stars myself, but no one had taught me how to read star charts. My son’s interest was very contagious so I got hooked into astronomy thanks to him” recalls Anu. “Later I got the opportunity to start my own business. I wanted to open a gift shop, and I knew I had to stand out somehow. At that time, there was no brick and mortar store specialized in astronomy, and that’s how I got the idea of Alnilam”. The company logo and name were also carefully thought out to match the theme of the shop. The logo is based on the “hourglass” of Orion Constellation, and the middle star of Orion’s belt is called Alnilam, which gives the company its name.
Later on, Anu’s youngest son also became interested in astronomy. “Then it became a family hobby,” Anu says. “I found it interesting and it made me think that it would be to have something science-inspiring for youngsters. Nowadays, kids and teens spend considerable amount of time staring at the screens of their phones or computers, so I wanted to offer them alternative activities. That’s why I have many different kinds of science sets and puzzles here. I often get positive feedback about them and how it gives youngsters more options and encourages them to be curious about the world”.
SHOPS STAR PRODUCTS
According to Anu, globes are particularly popular with tourists, and even Americans wonder about the existence of a globe. Anun explains that “The globes and the distances they show up fascinate people.” According to her, tourists often stay on the lookout for globes and talk about distances. “We Live Here” and “We Are Here” are the general discussions that take place around the globe.
One of the top products is Hot Air Balloon, and there are dozens of them hanging on the wall. “Travelers would love to take these with them, but they are too big for a suitcase and the delivering has been troublesome so far. That’s why I’m excited about the Claus service, which allows me to solve customer’s problem and ship his or her shopping directly to home. In the best months, home delivery requests come in almost every day,” says Anu.
There are hundreds of interesting items in the shop, but big, old-looking hourglasses are real eyecatchers. “These are interesting ones,” says Anu. “Their wood and metal parts are made from parts of an old English spinning machine, Spinning jenny.”
Since Alnilam is mostly a science and astronomy shop, Alnilam’s selection or decoration are not affected by general interior design trends. However, steampunk style appeals to Anu and is particularly interesting to her. “I am really fascinated by the shades of brown, brass and copper and I want to take my shop interior more and more in that direction”, says Anu.
OPENING HOURS AND LOCATION
You can find Alnilam store at the intersection of Lönnrotinkatu and Fredrikinkatu. Alnilam is well connected by public transport and is easily accessible from the train station.
You can also find Alnilam represented at book fairs, medieval markets and Finnish con events such as Desucon, Ropecon and Tracon.
Lönnrotinkatu 15, 00120 Helsinki
- Mondays to Fridays 10.30 – 18.00
- Saturday 10.00 – 15.00
- Sundays closed
- Alnilam Online Shop >>
- Alnilam facebook >>
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