Window dressing

Moscow is, without a doubt, Russia’s most expansive and expensive city. Living and commercial space is at a premium and people obviously try to get the most out of it. I’ve always loved how little stores, which are much like convenience stores in the US, fill their windows to the brim with the best they have to offer!

This little corner stores sprouted up in the early Nineties, as soon as the economic reforms after the fall of the Soviet Union allowed people to become entrepreneurs and store owners. They sell produce (fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, mostly) and most often simple household items. They definitely “put up a good fight” against supermarkets. Some choose the “dirt cheap” road and try to offer the lowest possible price, while others, like the one pictured above, endeavour to entice customers by displaying row upon row of their finest offerings. Sometimes a single window and adjacent door hide a much larger store than one would expect from the outside, but more often than not they are just a “two-room affair”.

Last year, among great debate, a number of such stores and kiosks, which owned its success (or its mere survival) to the fact that they were right outside busy metro stations, was torn down. The “legal reason” for the demolition was that, in fact, a good 99% of them had been built hurriedly and illegally during a time of “far west economy” under Yeltsin‘s presidency and with blatant disregard for all safety norms and regulation. On the other hand most, if not almost all of them, had already “changed hands” in the past 20-25 years and the current owner had bought the stores at market price unaware of any underlying problem (and with legal contracts). Another reason was that (other stores’ owners) felt that their incredibly convenient location amounted to unfair competition and that being in such close proximity to the metro station was an unbeatable advantage. It is worth noting, on the matter, that the Moscow metro transports every year about 2.5 billion passengers.

This particular store, which I photographed about two years ago, is also gone, but for a different reason. It operated out of a one-storey building in the formerly working-class neighbourhood of Nagatino, which thanks to it (relative) proximity to the city center (it is only for metro stops away from the Kremlin) is getting more and more sought-after and expensive. Some construction company bought the old building and on the same lot is constructing a fancy new high-rise.


2 thoughts on “Window dressing

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  1. This is fascinating — how the changes in Moscow and Russia generally are affecting the small corners of the city. I wish I’d read your blog before I visited Russia. It would have been an even better experience for me!


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