mEET THE boss
Something for Every Mood
Evgeniya Kachalova, the active, beautiful, and inspiring managing director of all 4 Wine Bazaars in Moscow. She pours herself some tea.
So, there are four Wine Bazaars.

Yeah, by now, we have 4 locations of Wine Bazaar, or "wine market," if you translate it to English. And we also have Sosedi, or "neighbors," if translated. At first, we wanted to make a place with breakfast and tea and coffee, but that turned out not to be a great model, financially. So we decided to change it, and now it's also about wine. We decided to call it "Wine Bazaar Sosedi," and now it's also part of our wine project. At Sosedi, we also decided to serve beer, so people who come can drink beer or wine. And, at the others, it's all about the wine.

Who's your typical clientele at Wine Bazaar?

So, I would say the typical client is a young lady, 25 to 35. I imagine she's a person who really loves traveling, who really loves feeling alive, who enjoys life, enjoys food or wine, things like that. She, or he, is someone who really loves to seize the moment, to grab onto life. Something like that.

When you started this business, did you anticipate that it would become so successful?

When we started, I didn't have any money at all. I wasn't thinking about that; all I was thinking was how I wanted to make people happy and how to get them to come to my place all the time. Actually, I started out working as a waitress, which was a really great experience. I had so many friends from doing that kind of work, and it was one of the greatest experiences in my life, really. Now, I have 5 locations to run, and I don't work as a waitress.

Where was it you were working as a waitress?

At our first location, on Komsomolskiy. It was the first one, so that's where I was working.

How did the experience transform over time, from first working as a waitress to now, working more behind the scenes?

When I was working there, I had to juggle everything. I was a manager as well as a waitress. It was really hard, but I had to combine those jobs. Nowadays, I'm of course not waiting tables, but it's a constant management process, every day. Frankly speaking, it hasn't gotten easy. With 5 locations, it's a totally different thing. There's a huge difference between running one place, two places, and 5. It's a different job entirely. You have to change your mind, you have to hire more employees, because with some areas – finances or management – I mean, you can't be in multiple places all at once. So you have to think about who will help control the business. That's what I'm working on now.

How do you choose the people in your team? It must take a lot of trust.

Yes, it's about trust, first of all. But what's also so important to me is that the people I work with really have that fire in their eyes. That they have focus and ambition, that their love for the work, for food and wine, is palpable. It can't just be about money. Money's important, sure, but the main thing is passion. If I sense passion in someone, then that's my kind of person. Of course, they also need to be professional, but passion is primary. With cooks – this is a really common talking point – if a cook doesn't like to eat, that's a bad sign. Some people come to us wanting to be a waiter or waitress. But we don't have waiters and waitresses here; we have people we call "kavistas." Like a "wine guy" or "wine girl." Like a sommelier, but more casual.

Like a wine adviser.

Exactly. Like a wine adviser. But, at the same time, a waiter and everything. It's hard. Some people come in, wanting to work here, and realize in a few days that they don't like setting the tables up. In restaurants, you should love what you do. So, people who come in for an interview need to love food and restaurants and all that's involved in that. That's what matters most.

And what is it you most love about your role here? What's your favorite part?

Well, food, of course. And communicating with people. I love people. That's the truth. And I love to be constantly meeting the many people who come here every day. That's the best thing about my job. Every day, I make all kinds of new and distinct connections. And I like to see the results of my work. When you first open a place, you'll manage to fill up a table, and then 2 or 3.... And then one day you'll come in and your restaurant is full, and you're like, "Yeah, that's good." That's the best.

What would you say has been the most challenging thing, personally or business-wise?

Well, I want to keep growing. And, when a business grows, it's important that the new products are consistent in quality. So my challenge is to keep our food and atmosphere at the best level. To grow without losing any of the things we care about.

And the more locations you have, the more you have to run around and check on everything.

Exactly, that's why we're having to interview a lot of candidates to share control of the business. It's too much for one person.

Yeah, you need to share.
Interior of the Wine Bazaar at Petrovsky bulvar
Okay. Do you have any advice for those who'd like to start a career in the wine business (so, most people)? laughs

The first thing, as I said, is passion. You know, it really is a common question…. A lot of people call me and ask the same thing. So, the first thing is passion, and the second – I don't know, maybe it's tied for first – you have to be professional. You have to work in this area, you have to understand the process. You really have to work, as a waiter, as a manager, or a cook or whatever. I used to work as a salesperson at a wine shop. You have to understand what's happening on the inside, to acquire this experience. And, after that, you can start. And it's not an easy experience. You'll make a lot of mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes, 5 years in.

So to start from a lower position and work your way up? A lot of people just want to jump in.

You've probably heard plenty of stories of great businessman who have children, and they had their children start out their careers from an entry-level position. It's important to get the feel of every step, to really understand the processes in your hotel, bar, whatever your company may be. That's my best advice.

Is it true that every Wine Bazaar is distinct in its own way?

That's part of our concept. After the first Wine Bazaar, we opened a second on Nikitsky [Boulevard], which is unique in it's "anti-desserts" menu. They look like desserts – pastries, cakes, eclairs – but they're savory, filled with salmon, pâté, etc. There's even a salmon "cheesecake." That was our second place. And where we currently are [the Petrovsky Boulevard location] is the modern Wine Bazaar; we refer to it as a club, because sometimes it feels that way, like a bar. We even have DJs come and play here. And then there's the one on Sadovaya [the Garden Ring Boulevard].
It was just opened, right?

Yeah, 4 months ago. It's Spanish inspired, with tapas and a menu you order from by penciling in your selection. So each one is different. And Sosedi's like a Wine Bazaar, but also with beer and its own type of food.

Are the people who visit the different Bazaars as varied as the locations themselves?

They can be, yes. But some go from one to the next. Based on feeling, like "Today, I'm feeling the Petrovsky spot." But some guests choose based on preference, and they have options. If they think, "We don't like the music here," then they can just go to Komsomolsky. So, there's a personalized aspect.

There's something for everyone.

Yes. It's interesting that way. There's something for every mood. We didn't want to spread out a bunch of the same places, everything the same, down to food and design. We wanted to make it special – a variety of different moods and styles. But one thing you'll see wherever you go are the walls of wine. That doesn't change.

Is it the same selection of wine in each location?

No, actually. When we started out, we thought that would be the case. But the guests end up telling us what kind of wine they like. So, take this location – Italian wine's the most popular. At another, maybe German. Of course, there's some overlap, but each place has different tastes.

Do you have a favorite location?

I couldn't say, they're all just right for me…. Maybe Komsomolskiy, because it was the first one, and I worked as a waitress for several years there. But I love all of them. They're all absolutely unique.

Do you have a favorite wine that you serve at Wine Bazaar?

That's a really hard question to answer, because wine is like mood. Today, in the winter snow, I might say red wine. And it depends on the food... I can't say which grape I prefer. I wouldn't say "I like Pinot Noir, I won't drink anything else." I drink a lot of wine. If you ask a sommelier their favorite bottle or grape, it's extremely hard to answer. Because they're so different. From reds, I like Pinot Noir and Malbec and Pinotage Syrah. But again, it depends on the food, the mood, the season. It's in fashion now to drink both white and red year round. But, when it's cold, it's better not to drink something cold. That's reflected in our sales – in winter, it's more red wine; in summer, more white.

I've heard that the Wine Bazaar staff sees little turnover. Is there a secret to achieving this?

It's true. People who work here tend to stay with us for a long time. We don't have much turnover... we don't have it at all, really. When a person comes here and makes it past the beginning stage, it's for long-term. Of course some people come and don't match the concept right from the start; that happens sometimes.

We really love our employees, and we do a lot to make them happy. We have a system, for instance, where we send groups of staff to visit wineries in Italy, France, other places. Our employees go there and have a wonderful week or so. They come back and they're so happy. And they're happy to sell the wine that they saw the production process of. They saw the barrels and the grapes before their eyes. That's a very positive thing. And, as far as I know, we're the only company who does this for employees.
Salmon cheesecake, one of the famous "anti-desserts" of Wine Bazaar at Nikitski bulvar
You mentioned that it's inevitable even for the owner of a business to make mistakes. Are there any that you can recall in particular?

Sometimes I think the biggest mistake is putting the wrong employee in a management role. Like the cook or financial director, which is actually a very important position. The person isn't really qualified for the role and it's hard. You know you have to do something, to make a change. And that's very hard, but you have tell yourself, "You have to do this, you have to fix it." The person may be very nice, very kind, but you have to consider professionalism.

And there was another thing.... actually, it wasn't our idea. We were working with someone's company, and he had an idea – a good one, actually, but we just weren't prepared for it. He decided to make a subscription service for wine sets: 3 bottles – red, white, and rose. We made these really beautiful boxes for them. It was supposed to be a low cost venture. The guy whose idea it was didn't think it would be a very difficult process, but it turned out to require a lot of staff.

All the packaging and shipping...

Exactly. A lot of people. But it was only Valeria [the PR manager] All laughing. It was very hard. And we made such beautiful boxes. Valeria prepared the texts about wines wines and grapes. It was very beautiful and it all cost a lot of money. That was that. Right when we started, we realized we didn't have enough hands.

Would you try it again in the future?

No. Everyone laughs. First of all, I don't feel any passion for that. It's not my business, and I don't really understand it. For sure, some people can earn a lot of money doing that. But it isn't a business I understand at all. Secondly, it's a different business entirely, a totally different market.

There isn't that face-to-face connection.

That's right. Oh, and one more mistake – about Sosedi. We wanted it to be a breakfast place, and the egg dishes went just fine, but in the evening people want to drink wine. So, that aspect of the concept fell short. So, it was our mistake that we've since been correcting by focusing more on the wine and beer part. When you feel that something is wrong, you have to make very quick decisions. You can't wait.

It takes a lot of wisdom to have the strength to make those decisions. To know where to stop.

Yes. Exactly.

Speaking of knowing where to stop, how do you find balance between work life and personal life? Because we have to stop on a daily basis, too.

Laughing. My personal life is veeery intensive. My personal life is also here. People who work here will tell you that it's my life. We all work here every day. Not from the morning, because we open at 12:00. I'm always home at eleven or twelve o'clock. I'm married; I have a husband. We're together Saturdays and Sundays. But, during the week, I don't have any time. And it's not like I'm going, "Oh, poor me, I have no free time." No, for me it's my life. As I told you, I meet a lot of people here. It's something I like to do. It's not like an obligation. It's not like every morning you go, "Oh, I have to go to work.…" That's not what it's like. I really want to go.

Of course, I don't have a lot of time to see my friends and relatives. But that isn't a problem for me. I have vacations. In winter, I have 10 days off, and I'll go skiing and see my family. We do it every year. We all go somewhere together, my sister and mom and my husband's parents.

And how does your husband feel about your schedule, only having weekends together?

Weekends! I'm always telling my husband that that's when places are open, that we have to go check them out! Laughing. So I try to make Saturday and Sunday when we go somewhere together to try something new. Either to the cinema, the theater, with friends or just us, taking walks.... We don't spend much time at home, so we have a lot of things to do... exhibitions and stuff. But, most of all, I really like food. So, whenever we go on vacation, I make sure to keep an eye on restaurants.

It's not work, it's what I really love.
Meet the Boss at
Wine Bazaar
The Original:

Komsomolsky prospect, 14/1, blg. 2
"Anti-dessert":

Nikitski bulvar, 12
Spanish-inspired:

Bolshaya Sadovaya street, 1
Clubby vibes:

Petrovski bulvar, 15, blg. 1