The village Venneshamn became a small trading centre in the late 19th century. In those days, much of the transportation of goods took place by sea. The landscape surronding Venneshamn forms a natural harbour, and in Norwegian the place name means 'calm harbour', reflecting the fact that the site was an ideal location for setting up a general store. The store was run by the firm Ernst Karlsen, a family business that had been in existence for four generations.
The current owner of the old building of the general store, Asbjørn Karlsen, is the younger brother of Arne Karlsen, who was the last of the generations of shopkeepers that ran the family business. Members of Asbjørn's family have restored the old building into a general store museum with a small café. Although the family name was Karlsen, the local people used to call the family business 'Kalsen'. Today, the website www.Kalsen.no is a play on words because the sign on the home page that reads 'Kaffe hos Kalsen.no' means 'Coffe by Karlsen now'.
Asbjørn Karlsen has always been interested in his family legacy. When he was challenged to do something about Nerstu, he had already recognized that the building was worth conserving and he was dedicated to the task. Family members faced formidable challenges regarding the number of working hours they would have to input as well as financial demands, in order to save the building. Undaunted, they strived to find funding and eventually succeeded in securing some financial support from various sources. Four years of restoration work lay ahead, so they hired professional craftsmen, and craftwomen to help them, among them carpenters who specialized in restoration work.
Asbjørn recalls that from the start, the family input an enormous amount of effort into the project, with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. On the way, we faced hardship, and at times we found the restoration work tedious and boring, which resulted in the rate of progress slowing every now and then. We admit that we were frustrated and downhearted at times, but we were also very excited when we reached certain milestones, such as when the exterior of the building and the living accomodation were completed. As we approached the completion day, we were able to recognize the magnificence of the restored house and museum. It was very satisfying to move in and start living there, and to run the museum café. We were proud to guide our visitors around the place and tell them about the history of the business, our family, and the village, and about the restoration we had done.