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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Shop With Everything and the Kitchen Sink

Nod if this sounds familiar: You are in Paris, London or Helsinki for a hard-earned week of rest and relaxation, except you find yourself making recurring trips to the housewares store to stock up on things like picture-hanging hooks, good kitchen knives, vacuum cleaner bags and extension cords for your computer back in Moscow. If you are nodding, then you have not strolled down the Novy Arbat lately. Propped up against the Garden Ring Road, where the infamous Arbat restaurant has long kept up an official-looking appearance, there is an overwhelming wall of bright royal blue. The British firm Roditi has taken up residence, and in return for tossing $6 million to the Arbat restaurant for a much-needed facelift, it has turned more than 2,000 square meters of floor space into a three-story retail complex dubbed the Europe Center. Inside, you will find an eclectic combination of housewares, groceries, wines, appliances, baby things, toys, clothing and shoes, kitchenware, electrical supplies, auto parts -- even the kitchen sink, in several models and colors. If you are planning a shopping trip, give yourself two good hours. The store's huge bottom floor only opened for business on June 15, and it shows. Organizationally, it is confusing. The main and bottom floors hold many of the same goods, but the bottom floor is about double the size, and has large grocery, appliance and hardware departments, not to mention a small cafe. The third floor is still under construction, but by September should hold imported designer-brand clothing, said Gennady Komissarov, the general director of the Arbat-21 restaurant, Roditi's joint venture partner. Further evidence of the store's hasty opening: Many goods are on the shelves without a price. When you ask a sales assistant -- and there are many of them at arm's length -- how much, for example, a roll of white wallpaper costs, you will discover that there simply is no price. Further investigation reveals that the roll will go for more or less the ruble equivalent of $10, depending on what the pricing expert eventually decides. It is clear that the pricing expert has been busy. Throughout the store, goods seem to be on offer at three levels: plausible, expensive and nouveau riche. A basic vacuum cleaner sells for about $172, and there are several choices. But if you want to impress your friends and clean your armchairs, the British VAX 2000 will vacuum, or with a flip of the switch, deep-clean your carpets and upholstery, all for a base price of $378.61. The same goes for shoes. Cute little Italian-made synthetic black T-strap sandals were priced at $20.84. Charles Jourdan leather pumps from France, meanwhile, cost $81.40. While there are a few bargains to be had -- such as an excellent German universal kitchen knife for $10.47, do not look for good deals in the electronics and appliance department. A simple toaster starts at $59.18 and climbs to $74.19. Video cassette recorders run at about $500, television sets about $1,000, and IBM computers $2,000 or more. The store offers its own credit cards which give the buyer an automatic 5 percent discount on all goods -- something to keep in mind for large purchases. Getting your booty home may be a challenge. The city has loosened parking restrictions on this end of the Novy Arbat, allowing a degree of sidewalk surfing, but judging from the army of hovering cars in the vicinity, there is simply not enough parking space. Never fear. If you accidentally pull that turn just a bit too wide, Roditi has headlights and tail lights for about $40 each. The Europe Center and Roditi-Arbat are located at 21 Novy Arbat Ulitsa, open daily from 9 A.M. to 8 P.M. Tel. 291-2005.