Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Little Piece of Manhattan

No Halloween celebration in any club, park or anywhere else was a more spectacular show or surrealistic event than the proceedings at 11/1 Velozavodskaya Ulitsa.


It is an area foreigners seldom visit: a typically gray and faceless, 50s-built quarter, in the industrial southeast suburbs of Moscow, close to the semi-closed ZiL auto plant. Here, near the barrack-like Velozavodsky market, at about 8 P.M. there suddenly appeared something that looked more like a scene on Madison Avenue: Chic limos approached a cozy parking area near a huge apartment block; security guards and servicemen received pop stars, top models, bankers, and TV personalities, leading them along marble steps to a brightly lit giant glass gate in the ground floor. Behind the windows one could see a gorgeous Stalin-era interior, furnished with newly installed shopping shelves and graced by some kids in blue overalls and white baseball caps, a string quartet and a crowd of celebrities. Well, this was the opening party for Nik's Supermarket -- the latest, and quite significant addition to the new capitalist face of Moscow.


Slava Nikiforov, the owner of the supermarket, is an old friend of mine and a person with a remarkable story behind him. Born in Siberia, the son of a political prisoner, he came to conquer Moscow in the late 70s, and succeeded. He's changed jobs many times -- from drumming in a restaurant band and bartending to being the executive manager of the Taganka Theater. A restlessly enterprising person, he's started many pioneering ventures in Moscow, including the first private cabaret Skazka, famous for hosting Secretary of State George Schultz, and a cooperative restaurant, Aromat, for which he employed a former Politburo chef. Above all, he was always in the center of Moscow's then semi-legal nightlife, organizing what could now be called rave parties -- with flamboyant gypsy bands instead of techno music. This was how Slava became friends with Alla Pugacheva, Larisa Dolina and other pop luminaries.


At the end of the 80s Mr. Nikiforov went to live and do business abroad -- first in Switzerland, then the United States. I haven't seen him there during my travels, but apparently he's done very well. Totally outside the Brighton Beach Russian ?migr? scene in America, he's started New Directions Inc., a successful trading and investment company that enabled him to cultivate his swinging lifestyle across the Atlantic. When my friends saw him in New York last summer, Slava was going out with Prince's ex (and the star of "Purple Rain"), Apollonia, and throwing huge parties and jazz jam sessions in Hampton Beach.


Although completely tough and professional, Slava Nikiforov has a soft spot: his nostalgia for Russia and his old friends there. Now he's found an excuse -- a profitable one, I hope -- to come to Moscow more often and inspect the scene. Nik's Supermarket is managed by an American team, partly recruited from the initial Manhattan Express personnel, and has quite an uncommon selection of produce, which is bound to excite the members of the North American community in Moscow. Apart from bread and some meat and dairy products, all the stock is shipped every week directly from the United States, and it includes many items -- like Campbell soups, immortalized by Andy Warhol -- that weren't available in this city before.


Just like the store itself, where hi-tech equipment nestles among well-preserved elements of Soviet-style decoration, the party was an amusing mixture of Russian traditionalism and modern decadence. To start with there was Father Paisy, accompanied by three monk singers, who blessed the supermarket. There were drinks, snacks and socializing to Vivaldi music, very well performed by a quartet, and the whole thing ended up with a modest caviar orgy.


Congratulations, Slava. The opening was really well done. Now, we'll see how the working class of the Avtozavodsky district will perceive Nik's Supermarket. Will this small piece of Manhattan survive in the gray environs of ZiL? Let's keep our fingers crossed.


n


It's been a long time since I last wrote about club life. Now, there are a couple of new hangouts worth mentioning, and both are on Tverskaya. Club Moskovsky has a well-equipped music bar and a nice -- but hardly realistic -- intention to be "alternative" and expensive at the same time. Club Stanislavsky, in the Stanislavsky Theater no less, can boast by far the most impressive interior in Clublandia (a cross between a Stalin-style metro station and Radio City Music Hall), but, so far, not much more. Go and see for yourself.