After 120 years in business, the Yeliseyevsky luxury grocery store closed its doors on April 11. The store survived revolution, communism, and the collapse of the Soviet Union but has reportedly been forced to shut down due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.
The iconic shop was founded in 1901 by Grigory Yeliseyev, the grandson of a freed serf, and catered to Moscow's upper classes.
Moscow's fur-coated elite once lined up in carriages outside the store for coveted treats like the fish and cheese seen above, as well as imported wines and foreign delicacies such as pineapples.
A witness to the store's 1901 opening captured the sensation it caused at the time: "On the sidewalk there was a crowd of people eagerly looking through the windows at fantastic piles of goods unknown to Moscow: Exotic fruits rose in mountains. A pyramid of coconuts rose like a heap of cannonballs, each the size of a child's head. Tropical bananas hung in immense bunches, and the vari-colored inhabitants of the sea kingdom glowed under the mother-of-pearl electric lighting...."
After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Yeliseyev was forced to flee the country and the store was seized by Russia's new radical left-wing government.
Under the Soviet Union's socialist bureaucracy, Yeliseyevsky was renamed "Gastronom No. 1."
In the early 1980s, Yeliseyevsky was at the center of a corruption scandal that shocked the country when the director of the store was charged with theft and bribery, then executed in 1984.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, some $3 million was spent to revive the elegant interior. Then, in 2004, Yeliseyevsky's reopened as a 24-7 grocery store.
In recent years the store has reportedly struggled to remain profitable and, in 2019, the owners became embroiled in a complex legal battle with the Moscow government.
Parking near the store is notoriously difficult, and skyrocketing rents have led to a dwindling of local residents within strolling distance.
The store had relied largely on tourists willing to pay a premium for groceries checked out in exquisite, historic surroundings, while the few Russian consumers in the neighborhood largely headed for cheaper and more accessible supermarkets nearby.
With Russia's borders effectively closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yeliseyevsky's tourist foot traffic evaporated over the past year before the store closed down on April 11. The legal battle with the Moscow government is ongoing.