When the rent was too high for Bulgarians to open traditional store-fronts, they turned to unused cellar spaces to open ‘squat shops.’
Although we’ve seen stores pop up in old school buses, virtual pop-up storefronts, and even temporary pop-ups that run off converted energy, these pop-up stores in Bulgaria take the prize for making the best use of limited space. Called ‘Kleks,’ these tiny basement shops in Sofia were created out of necessity; after the fall of the Berlin Wall, residents of Sofia were free to open their own private businesses. But because the high rent prices prevented many from opening traditional businesses, enterprising entrepreneurs got creative and utilized the oft-neglected basement windows as their store-fronts.
Similar to New York’s ubiquitous convenience stores, the streets of Sofia are now lined with these odd little shops, ‘catering to the cigarette fix of the passing pedestrian or the midday thirst of those waiting at bus stops, for which patrons have no objection to stooping to street level.’ Photographer Ivaylo Getov, quoted above, captures these colorful and often elaborate ‘squat shops’ in an enchanting series. To prevent theft, the goods are kept inside the basement, with customers pointing to pictures of the items on the street.
Although today, 23 years after the birth of the ‘Klek,’ some entrepreneurs choose to open more traditional store-fronts, many basement level shops still exist, an ode to the domination of capitalism over communism.
Click through the gallery below to see more images of the basement ‘pop-up’ shops: