KAZAN: "My idea was to move away from the typical Russian cafes with their glamorous and pretentious designs, forced courtesy and water pipes (hookah). Our cafe is from recycled materials, my friends helped and we designed it ourselves,’’ said Ildar. A freelance journalist, Ildar opened a co-working cafe because he enjoyed making coffee and wanted a place to work. ‘’I killed two birds with one stone by opening this place. I sometimes work there as a barista, sometimes I am writing articles or editing photos and video.’’ However, regular cafes are more popular than co-working spots. ‘’I understand that local freelancers are seemingly still not ready to work in the same space alongside unfamiliar people.''
SAMARA: Alyona, 27, started her first business while raising her first child. The pharmacy graduate, bored of sitting home, began to sew dolls that could be used as interior decoration and gave them to friends as gifts. When those friends encouraged her to later attend a street fair, she ended up selling all 30 dolls.
A year ago, her husband heard on the radio that there are some 200 ‘cat’ cafes in Japan. The next morning, they agreed to use savings they set aside to build a home at the edge of the Samara to open a similar cafe. ”We decided to take a risk,” Alyona said. ”That day, I sat and wrote a business plan from A to Z.”
Khabarovsk: Nastya, 19, who grew up in a small town near Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. Nastya's mom divorced shortly after she was born and had to sell cigarettes on the streets in late 90s to pay rent. Her mom, who studied accounting, later got hired to manage the books in a convenience store. In 2000, Nastya's mom took a big risk, borrowing money to buy the convenience store. Her mom's timing couldn't have been better. Russia's economic growth was about to skyrocket over the next decade. Her mom quickly paid back the loan and eventually opened a second store. When Nastya entered university, her mom agreed to give her spending money only in her first year. "It was her principle," Nastya said. "She said she wanted me to be responsible and independent. She said I will thank her in 5-6 years." After a stint working in a cafe, Nastya is now trying to earn money after classes by doing manicures.
After a 75 minute bus ride from Gus Khrustalni to Vladimir, I had 1.5 hours to walk around the historic town before my 2-hr train ride back to Moscow. I went looking for coffee and passed a colorful cafe with big windows that probably opened a year or two ago at most. Paintings were on the wall...it was a place you might find in NYC. As I sat down, I saw a young woman in a NYC shirt with pinkish-rimmed glasses. She had been reading, but was getting ready to leave and I walked over to chat about her studies and dreams. Zhenya said she was finishing her university degree and, after much thought, had finally realized what she wanted to do in life...at least in the mid-term: 'I want to draw, to create something intellectual.' She hoped to continue her studies either in Moscow or abroad, where she felt educational demands and job opportunities would be better than in her native Vladimir. Considering her artistic interests, it was not surprising to find her at home in such a cafe. Notice the artwork on the wall behind her.
Moscow's food service industry still gets a bad rap, but service quality has improved significantly over the years in my view. Vika, a high school student who works at a coffee chain, is a good example of the better service. On the job only a few months, she says it can be tiring being on your feet all day, something I know from my days at a chain in NYC. The other problem she notes are the occasional drunk customers that give her extra attention.