SAMARA: Victor, 48, was riding his mountain bike in the center of Samara on a weekend afternoon as temperatures around -10c. Music was playing from a radio he had tied to his bike. The freelance electronics engineer said he rides about 50 kilometers when not repairing TVs, radio and other items. Victor said he will sometimes bike long distances, recalling a 180km trip to Ulyanovsk region. He said he did the trip by himself, taking camp equipment that he attaches to his bike. He said he likes to listen to Chinese music when riding as he likes the melody. He spoke a few words of Chinese to me.
SAMARA: Alexander, an Austrian, has been working in Russia for a large German retail outlet for the past seven years with stints in Moscow, Rostov and now Samara. At the suggestion of a Russian friend, he co-opened men’s barbershop franchise Chop-Chop in Samara in 2013.
After six months of observing business at Chop-Chop, Alexander decided to create Chica, a woman’s version of the high-end barber shop. His logic was straight forward.
”I realized, if men can pay 1,500 rubles for a haircut (~$50 in 2013), they probably have wives or girlfriends that could afford a similar women’s salon. Samara may not look very good right now, but people here have money.”
SAMARA: Evgeny, 27, grew up in a small town outside of Samara and worked as an economist for two years, ”making good money.” But he gave up the job to open Long Live clothing store 14 months ago. The store gives more space – about 80 percent – to unknown Russian and Ukrainian designers compared to well-known brands.
”To do what you love is the most important thing,” Evgeny said about his decision to leave his office job. He said he wants to offer clothing that is ”unique, that doesn’t have serial production.” As for promoting Ukrainian designers alongside Russian, he said ”political games shouldn’t concern simple 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.”
SAMARA: Alina (left) was hanging out with friends Alexandra and Nastya by the Volga riverside in Samara, each holding hot drinks from a nearby McDonald's as they watched people skiing, walking and winter kite surfing along the frozen river. Alexandra and Nastya, 17, first met Alina at an art class they all currently attend outside of their regular studies. Alina said her favorite artist is Salvador Dali, but that she is inspired by work of modern, unknown artists ''as their art is normally created from their hearts.'' Alina said her first portrait will be that of a girl ''to show her deep inner world…what she sees and the nature she feels.''
SAMARA: Boris, 26, recently opened Blaser Cafe, a small coffee shop in the center of Samara with a friend. I asked Boris why they decided to start the business. “People here travel to Europe, such as Italy, where they experience the coffee culture and they want the same quality in Samara. The coffee culture is starting to take off.”
SAMARA: It was a pretty amazing site....the sun was covering the Frozen Volga with a bright light on a late morning... when in the distance, a darkish figure was moving quickly across the white mass. It was someone riding a bike across the frozen river. I ran back toward the stairs leading to the Volga to catch Alexander getting off his bike. He said he lives on the other side of the Volga and crosses 5 times a week to clean snow off roofs. Alexander said he was on his way to work. I asked if it were difficult to bike across the ice. He answered that it was easy as he has been doing it for so long.
SAMARA: Kostya has been working for one of the world’s largest oil producers for the past decade, but, despite the good benefits, he said he had been itching to do something on his own. A few years ago, he said he watched a video about opening a barbershop while drinking wine that really made him think…and act.
SAMARA: Dmitry and Sveta were walking along the frozen Volga River on Woman’s Day, far from the rest of the holiday goers that were enjoying the beautiful sunset. Dmitry, who works for a local power company, said he met Sveta at a New Year’s eve costume party in the Samara suburbs to ring in 2014. He was dressed as a martian and she was dressed as a robot…
SAMARA: This couple was returning home on Woman's Day from their walk across the frozen Volga with their 8 month-old dog. They said it only took about 15-20 minutes to make the cross, which others complete via a boat ride across the ice. They said their daughter has been living in Los Angeles for the last three years with her Russian husband, having opened a music retail store.