In our times when everything is aimed at making a profit, the legendary Yeliseevsky store in Moscow was jointly managed by the Yeliseevsky company and the Alye Parusa grocery chain since 2005. At the end of last year, problems with investors became publicly known, and then the COVID-19 pandemic started.
On April 11, the legendary grocery store was closed. Representatives of the Yeliseevsky company explained this by the fact that they could not find new investors "because of “some confusion with the store building.” According to the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr,) the city of Moscow is the owner of the store premises, but in fact, it is the Yeliseevsky company, whose management stated the following: "Most of our customers are foreigners. The borders were closed, and this had affected the profits."
In 2005, Yeliseevsky became part of the Alye Parusa retail chain owned by Olga Blazhko, mother of Maxim Blazhko, founder of the Don-Stroy real estate developer. At its peak, the chain consisted of 18 supermarkets and hypermarkets. However, it was put up for sale in February 2019. At that time, its representatives stressed that they would not give up their stake in the company that manages the Yeliseevsky grocery store on Tverskaya, 14. Indeed, although by November 2020, only three stores remained open, the famous Yeliseevsky was among them.
Recall that, according to media reports, Alye Parusa was an additional project for the Blazhko family. When Maxim Blazhko started having problems with the development business, this had an impact on the department store chain as well. In 2009, Maxim Blazhko and his partners lost the Don-Story group, which was bought by VTB for the token sum of 500 rubles ($6.66) as its debt to VTB had reached $500 mln by that time. Don-Story housing projects then went to Gosbank. Later, VTB announced that it withdrew from the shareholders of the development company.
It should be recalled that this legendary gastronome was opened in Moscow by the merchant Yeliseev on February 5, 1901. At that time, it was called Yeliseev's Shop and Cellars of Russian and Foreign Wines. It had three trading halls with five departments: gastronomic, grocery, confectionery, fruit, and the department where the crystal was sold. A separate entrance from Kozitsky Lane led to a wine cellar. Recall that in 1898, Grigory Yeliseev, a merchant, bought a three-storeyed mansion at the corner of Tverskaya Street and Kozitskiy lane built at the end of the 18th century by the architect Matvei Kazakov for Ekaterina Kozitskaya, the daughter of a Siberian gold merchant. Almost three years lasted reconstruction of the building, during which a luxurious renovation was made. Even at that time, rich people often went there just to admire its interior decoration. "Wealthy customers were the main target of Yeliseevsky, and salespeople had to be polite and speak several foreign languages. Even then the widest assortment of various delicacies, imported wines, and other goods was represented there. All this was possible thanks to Grigory Yeliseev's strong trade connections with European partners.
Vladimir Gilyarovsky, a writer and journalist, described the opening of this "temple of gluttony" as follows:
"Silver and crystal glittered on the snow-white tablecloths, reflecting a myriad of electric reflections in their facets, like frozen drops of the waterfall and shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow. In the middle between the crystal decanters, filled with wines of different colors, tastes, and ages, there were bottles of all kinds of shapes, from simple light gold chateau d'Yquem with convex glass stamps to champagne Bourgogne, goblets of Madeira wine, and clumsy, primitive bottles of Hungarian wine. On the old Tokay bottles, the mother-of-pearl of time merged with the misty background of marshy sludge-colored glass.
Everything was on the tables at once, along with cold appetizers. Fancifully shaped galleys, jellies, and galantines shuddered. Huge red lobsters and lobsters hid in frozen sauces like clouds and crimson in the bright light. Hams looked like kings with their bulk. The hams were cooked, with their skin tucked back, ruddy with pinkish fat. The Westphalian hams, also with their cloaks folded back, were a gentle whiteness against the tablecloth. They were sliced with mathematical accuracy. Thin as a sheet, the layers of the entire cross-section of the ham were stacked in their places so that the ham seemed to be untouched.
The fat Ostend oysters, ornately shaped on the layer of snow that covered the dishes, seemed to breathe. Across the wide table, whitefish and sturgeon were rosy and amber. There was small sterlet caviar in the ring of clear ice in the silver buckets, dark sturgeon caviar, and large beluga caviar, grain by grain, were piled over the edges of the table. The fragrant March caviar, from the Salyan fields, puffed up on the silver plates. Then there was dry sack caviar. Each grain of caviar was cut in half with a thin knife. It rose, keeping the shape of the sacks. The world's best salmon caviar with a special earthy flavor, Achuy's-Kuchugury, stood as huge mammocks on the plates".
Then October 1917 started, after which all of Grigory Yeliseev's property was nationalized. The entrepreneur himself was first forced to leave for Crimea, and from there he emigrated to France. Grigory Yliseev died in 1949. He was buried in the cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-de-Bois near Paris.
In 1921, however, the trading company resumed its work under the name of Gastronome N°1. The store was still notable for its wide assortment, availability of exotic products, and high prices. Notably, even during the Second World War, in 1944, Gastronome N°1 had a commercial department, where clients could pay in cash. It should be recalled that at that time, there was a universal card system in the USSR.
During the times of "developed socialism," the store continued its work. Even when the country, and especially in the regions, had a shortage of anything and everything, Gastronome N°1 remained a kind of trademark of the USSR. By the way, people still called it exactly Yeliseevsky, and just at that time began to appear the information that "in the gastronome in the conditions of the country's shortage of delicacies there was the illegal sale of products to a limited circle of persons, including senior party and government officials, famous artists, academics, etc."
Photo by: mos-holidays.ru
At the time, Yuri Sokolov was the head of
Yeliseevsky. Against him, a criminal investigation of bribery and embezzlement was initiated. On October 30, 1982, he was arrested. More than 100,000 rubles were seized from Sokolov during a search, an unbelievable sum of money for those days. He owned an apartment, a summer cottage, and a used foreign car, a Fiat. Nowadays, these cars are very common, but back then it was something very rare and unusual.
Sokolov counted on the help of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, and his daughter Galina, with whom he was friends. However, on November 10, 1982, Brezhnev died and Sokolov began to testify realizing that no one would help him.
Based on the information he provided to the investigation, about 100 criminal cases were opened against the heads of Moscow trade organizations, including Nikolai Tregubov, the head of the Main Department of Trade of Moscow. In fact, the Yeliseev case became the largest case of embezzlement in the Soviet trade. In 1984, Sokolov was sentenced to execution and Tregubov to 15 years in prison. Sokolov was so depressed by the verdict that he initially refused even to write a petition for clemency but eventually did so. Nevertheless, the sentence was upheld and was executed in December 1984.
It was not until 1992 that the famous gastronome, which had been transformed into a JSC, officially became known as the Yeliseevsky Store again. In 2003 $3 million were spent on its reconstruction. The luxury interior was recreated and the counters were bursting with all kinds of delicacies.
On April 11, 2021, the legendary Yeliseevsky grocery store, which had worked for 120 years almost continuously and had survived wars, revolutions, ruins, and perestroika, was closed.
It is not yet known who will be the new owner of Yeliseevsky, possibly the state, but the store remains a kind of landmark of not only Moscow but the country as a whole. When will it resume its work? No exact date has been announced, but Moscow authorities say that soon.