—The context allows us to sell not just bread or pastries, but historical souvenirs. The demand is not for pastila
or kalach, not for residences or museums, but rather for a lifestyle, a strong and unique urban identity. All in all, it is an experience for the visitors and local identity for the residents. We highlight and emphasise idiosyncratic elements, features, and images and try to communicate them with state-of-the-art media.
We are into package sales. The kalach bread
in itself accounts for just a fourth part of the sale. The rest is architecture, facades, interiors, the way people dress and talk. In sync, they create a place that is fascinating, exciting, popular, and makes you want to come back. There is no way of knowing if it will work outside the natural habitat.
We have two legal entities: the autonomous noncommercial organisation runs museums, while the limited liability company manages production chains: heritage breadmaking, pastila, preserves, and the rest of it. Every site has a manager, just like any production facility. The Museum Bakery is supervised by two teams: it is a small baking factory managed by the Head Baker and a museum that takes care of visitor experiences. Other sites follow the same guidelines. This way, we are able to attract multi-channel financing. The non-commercial organisation receives private grants and state subsidies, and the company’s dividends are reinvested in development. It would be nice to have an institutional partner, a serious investor who shares our values and ideas of public good. But we are still on the lookout.
Luckily, the museum framework includes production, although originally we intended to outsource both bread and pastila. But nobody wanted to make them for us, so our curatorial research eventually developed into a production facility, a small craft workshop correlated with the exhibitions. These production facilities held us afloat during lockdown. Today, we are rethinking our entire life, including production chains. The demand today is for simple, healthy, accessible food: bread and sugar-free dried jam rather than an elaborate fancy cake. This is our new focus: our audience is now getting the produce at home on a daily basis instead of eating inside the museum. We are able to attract a different audience, the one that cares for a healthy lifestyle, and keep the jobs. There was no need for severe cuts. Our staff is getting their basic salary.
We started the Heritage Library
project with support of the Potanin Foundation
grant programme for social and cultural innovations. Functionally, the idea was to launch a franchise that would allow anyone to use our best practices in other historical towns of Russia. For us, it was a new perspective on our own activities, an internal audit, an assessment of the ten years of work of the creative cluster and an analysis of the ways our experiences could be scaled up or reframed for other territories with different needs and audiences.