Amordad News
Once upon a time, Tehran (66)

The First Chain Store and Escalator in Tehran

The first chain store and the first escalator in Tehran.  It was beautiful and did astound the people. The women wore their best clothes, and the men wore ties and went to the store. People from all over Iran went to the capital to visit the country’s first chain store and escalator. The opening day of the Ferdowsi store was full of people. Everyone was excited to see the store and its goods, with sausages and cold cuts in the German cafe/restaurant also had its own thrill.  The potatoes and mayonnaise that came with it were also exciting for the people. The children went up and down the escalator a hundred times, screaming with joy and excitement. What a world! What a joy! It was the thirties, and Tehran becoming new; terrifying and insane, but hollow and with an unknown fate!

Azar 22, 1336 was the opening day of the Ferdowsi store on Ferdowsi Street in Tehran. The day before, the country’s officials had visited the store. People said that no store more modern than this had ever been seen in Tehran.  Everything was of the American store style; glamourous and mind blowing; with cheap goods.  They could walk around in the store as much as they liked, have a look at the goods and buy as much as they could afford.  Then, they could visit the second floor and buy ready-made and delicious food from the restaurant’s German chef.  What better entertainment than this?!

Apart from the desired atmosphere and easy and pleasant shopping, the store managers had said that their goal in founding the first chain store in Tehran (Ferdowsi store) was to free the country from shops and stores. If successful, a plan would free Tehran, like American and European cities, from numerous shops and focus on shopping malls. They also had the right to have such a dream in their hearts. The government had a point in nurturing such a dream.  It was not easy to control and check every single shop and control their health and hygiene issues. Price control and tax also had a thousand problems. Chain stores, on the other hand, did not have such difficulties. But all these words and wishes did not come true, and the Ferdowsi chain stores and then Kourosh stores did not fulfill this wish, and the same old method of shopkeeping continued.

Ferdowsi store, brand new and ideal

The Ferdowsi Store was built on 3300 sqm of land and had four stories, and two basement stories. The stone facade and its tall glass made the store building spectacular. The designer and builder of the store building were Germans. In those years, German engineers and designers were engaged in construction projects in several places in Tehran. Germany was divided by the events of World War II, and those in Tehran, led by the Iranian government, came from West Germany. It should also be mentioned that the land on which the store building was built was the house of “Dr. Tholozan,” the physician of Naser al-Din Shah, during the Qajar period and in the following years, it was known as a guest house called “Pars.”

The Ferdowsi store had an area of 3300 meters and was built on four floors. It had two basements. The goods were located on the top two floors and were considered the center of shopping and going to restaurants. On the second floor, there was a restaurant cafe and a place to buy clothes, handicrafts, and similar goods. The first floor was also allocated to the sale of food.

In the early days, the people of Tehran who went to the Ferdowsi store to see its splendor were confused. They were in a hurry to see everything and greedy to buy as much as possible. They were excited and went up and down the escalator with a bit of fear and trembling and did not know what to do with all that happiness! But, very soon the fever died, and the store became like all other new things that is loved at the beginning and becomes old and boring slowly.

We said that the Ferdowsi store was the first shopping center in the country to have an escalator. One of the attractions of the store and its reputation was its escalator. An officer was standing with chest out, in front of the stairs, making sure that the women’s clothes and chadors were not on the stairs and that the children were not harming themselves. The store advertisements were not the normal size, and could be seen in every newspaper and magazine. The slogan of the founders of the Ferdowsi chain store was: “Fixed-rate, low price, good quality goods.” the plan was to fight high rates.  And this was of course the case.  The prices of the goods in the store were lower compared to shops outside.  The quality was even better. An example of the Ferdowsi store advertisement published in the newspapers of those years was as follows: “Respected residents of Tehran and other cities, Ferdowsi store has sold high-quality rice in 45 kg bags for the price of 27 Rials per kilo for the welfare of consumers. 45 kg bag, 27 Rials? Is it true? Would you believe it? For those experiencing difficult economic conditions today and rising daily goods prices, it is a dream come true! But it was right, and it was true, and in those years, rice could be bought and cooked and enjoyed so cheap!

However, things went well until the government decided to buy all the shares of the store. The government did so and asked government employees to buy from the store. It did not end here, and in Farvardin 1344, at a government meeting, it was decided to merge the store with a company called the “Foreign Trading Company.” The trading company bought government-ordered goods from abroad. After that meeting, all the activities of the mentioned company with given to Ferdowsi Store.

In the same year, 1344, the second branch of the Ferdowsi store was opened in Gholhak, Tehran, and the first district branch of the store opened in Darya-Kenar, near Mazandaran.  But only a few days later, in 1351 (1972) Ferdowsi store was handed over to a newly established organization by the name of “Urban and Rural Consumer Cooperation Organization.” Thus, the store was no more Ferdowsi Store, but now call the “City and Village Store” and continued its activities under this name.  This inappropriate and improper transformation caused the store to lose its importance and popularity and failed to maintain the position it had gained among Tehran shoppers. The greatest achievement of the Ferdowsi chain stores for the people of Tehran in those years was “rich sales and cash flow.” With the opening of the Ferdowsi store, people experienced the joy of shopping with more enthusiasm and happiness in a calm and pleasant environment, and the variety of goods offered left them free to choose goods and buy.

Fortunately you can still get a glimpse of the interior of the then Ferdowsi Store from movies sequences and get an idea of how the customers visited and shopped in the store and also working environment of staff of the store. In 1339, three years after the opening of the Ferdowsi chain store, the movie “Fear and Hope” directed by Ahmad Fahmi, was made Parts of the movie were filled inside the store. The story of the film “Fear and Hope” was such that the film’s main actor, an employee of the Ferdowsi store, gets sick and stays at home. His eight-year-old daughter goes home to a drugstore a few blocks away, but the pharmacist mistakenly gives her a poisonous drug. After the girl leaves, the pharmacy doctor realizes his mistake. After many adventures, she finds the sick employee’s house and saves him from taking poisonous medicine and unwanted death at the last moment. The scenes filmed in Ferdowsi Store, though black and white and old, are spectacular and old, are spectacular and introduce the viewer to the store’s atmosphere and Ferdowsi Street in the thirties. Although it did not have a happy ending, the Ferdowsi chain store was an impressive and successful experience, though for a short period.

This article was written by taking advantage of Minoo Badiee’s writing on the “Samt” website; Sanat-e Ghaza website; “Safarnevis”; “Wiki Joo,” and the book “Two Worlds” written by Goli Taraqi.

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