The Eliseevsky store, famous throughout Russia, could well be called differently — “Kasatkinsky”, if not for the filial love of two tall young handsome men for their father, who had taught his sons hardworking by his example and instructions and brought them to the people. To glorify not their true surname — Kasatkina, but the name of the priest they named the business they founded on their common patronymic: «The Eliseev Brotherhood Partnership.» And the grandchildren cemented the grandfather name in the memory of Russia, passing half a century later this name to two stores, the most luxurious in the whole state and similar, like twin brothers, in St. Petersburg and Moscow. And the third — in Kiev … Even when after the revolution in trade there was not a single Eliseev left, their shops were popularly «Eliseevsky».
The story goes that all the luxurious shops of Elisea, famous delicacies and other goodies and luxuries began with trifles — with a platter of strawberries. True, this saucer was brought not only to anyone, but to Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev, Chief Marshal, and his noble guests, among whom was Princess Varvara Dolgorukaya, and even on Christmas Day! A trifle? How to say. The beginning of the XIX century, the heating of greenhouses — exclusively with the help of stoves, there is practically no glazing, there will be no daylight for a long time. Yes, in these greenhouses it was possible to grow exotic fruits even in winter (unless, of course, an extra-class gardener), but forest strawberries are a completely different kind of business. There is a question of soil, and light, and humidity, and even microflora.
So Pyotr Yeliseevich Kasatkin, serf of Count Sheremetev, performed a real miracle, managing to not only keep the bushes of wild strawberries in the greenhouse of the Count’s palace, but to achieve fruiting in the middle of winter. For which he received free. Yes, the count, having become generous, released Peter Kasatkin not alone, but with his wife.
The gardener Petr Eliseevich Kasatkin, having arrived in St. Petersburg (only two days on the luge route), immediately re-qualified as a merchant. It is characteristic that the count gave the former serf as much as 100 rubles — in those days absolutely crazy money, especially for the peasant. But neither Peter nor his wife had the idea of wasting capital on trifles. Everything, up to a penny, was put into action. To trade.
Pyotr Eliseevich and Maria Gavrilovna stopped at their village, watching the Sheremetev city palace: it should always be clean and warm in case of an unexpected arrival of the owner. The next morning they bought a bag of oranges, a wooden tray over their heads and went out on a crowded Nevsky Prospect. Maria Gavrilovna stood at the intersection with Sadovaya (to guard the fruits in a bag until they are needed), and Pyotr Yeliseyevich, with a tray on his head filled with oranges, went, smiling, towards a strolling noble public, offering his piece goods unexpected in the winter. At first he was shy, but by the end of the day he learned to shout smartly, as if he himself were very happy: “Who wants to treat the lady with an orange? Penny — what a money! Who will not spare a penny to please a lady with an orange? ”
Cavaliers, showing gallantry, opened their wallets. Some people had a nickel in their hands, and since the warning seller immediately had a change, they showed generosity: they say, give oranges for two copecks … But, astonishing the buyers, Peter Eliseevich held out three oranges for two copecks. At home, the wife spoke out. Why damage yourself? It is said, an orange costs a penny, and if you gave two pennies, then get two oranges. However, there was no loss. By the end of the first day, the couple counted their capital: in the morning there were one hundred rubles, in the evening — one hundred one.
Less and less Maria Gavrilovna had to stand in the cold draft: they recognized Pyotr Yeliseyevich, went out on Nevsky specially to surprise the companion with such a beautiful white winter orange fruit. Increasingly, with an empty tray in his hand, Peter Eliseevich returned to Sadovaya, where his wife languished in anticipation. And she, overcoming embarrassment, began to not only stand with the goods, but little by little and bargain. Then they bought a second tray — for the wife. And Maria Gavrilovna went with him, also smiling, on the other side of Nevsky Prospekt …
In the summer, their small sons, Sergei, Grigory and Stepan, arrived in Petersburg with fellow travelers, who had previously remained in the village with grandmother Pelageya. Getting used to life in St. Petersburg, Maria Gavrilovna now insisted on calling the children. Yes, they did not interfere. Especially the eldest, Sergei, who was already thirteenth year old. Instead of his mother, he brought oranges to his father, looked at the younger ones, and then, when they rented a bench for the house in Kotomin’s house on Nevsky Prospekt (now at No. 18), he cleaned it with his younger brothers and knocked down fruit boxes. Everything went to start their own business.
Count Sheremetev learned about the successes of Peter Yeliseevich from his courtyard: the landowner became rich, opened his own business, became a St. Petersburg celebrity. About a busy man who gained freedom thanks to wild strawberries, ripening in the greenhouse by Christmas, they really were gossiping in rich houses, they admired: he gloriously came up with selling oranges in the winter from a tray on his head!
The whole year the family lived economically. In the corner that they rented for the shop, they took a small place for themselves. They didn’t buy anything extra — they saved money. One day after Christmas, at the intersection with Sadovaya, which he and his wife had chosen from the very beginning, Pyotr Yeliseyevich unexpectedly met with his former benefactor-master. The count sincerely rejoiced, began to ask what was on Peter Eliseevich’s head. The recent serf told everything and, without removing the wooden tray from his head, he added that he was collecting good money to buy off his brother, Grigory Eliseevich Kasatkin, from the count.
— And how much did you collect? — asked Sheremetev.
“One hundred forty rubles and thirty kopecks,” the former gardener replied.
The count thought for a moment:
“I suppose that’s enough.”
Pyotr Eliseevich did not immediately realize that the count’s words signified consent, and when he realized he fell, to the surprise of passers-by, on his knees, began to look for the master’s hand to kiss. Only then did he notice that Sheremetev was not alone. In the carriage, which stopped on Nevsky near Sadovaya and was waiting for the count, sat covered in a fur cavity and looked at what was happening Varvara Vladimirovna Dolgorukaya, a year ago the first to taste a happy Christmas strawberry.
Just a month later, late in the evening, in St. Petersburg, Grigory Eliseevich appeared. He was dressed like a peasant, and Peter first led his brother to his new acquaintance — the tailor. The second thing we went to the solicitor was to compose and beautifully write a petition on the establishment of the “Eliseev Brotherhood Partnership”.
Then the historians of St. Petersburg argued with the relatives of the prosperous Eliseevs when, in what year the Partnership was created and in what generation, believing that it was not founded by Peter and Grigory at all, but by the three sons of Peter Eliseevich, and only in 1857. The descendants in response asked: why, then, was the centennial of the “Eliseev Brotherhood Partnership” celebrated in 1913?
Although Peter Eliseevich, faithfully looking at his benefactor, and named the exact amount in rubles with copecks, he had much more money. One day, having waited in the morning, he took out the bank notes and silver and, together with his brother, counted them twice (in the evening the bank notes do not leaf through: some unkind person might inadvertently see through the window and be flattered by other people’s money).
Trading Empire of the Eliseevs
The brothers were not illiterate; back in the village, the priest had learned both to count and write. In St. Petersburg, they first mastered the geography: they wanted to know exactly where the noble fruits grow — oranges, figs, bananas and how the grape aromatic wine is obtained from grapes. Leaving Grigory Eliseevich in St. Petersburg to trade (certainly without interruption, even on Sundays and holidays) and in detail punishing his brother what to do if there is any difficulty — whether with the police, with the owner of the sidewalk (the brothers no longer walked along the street themselves, and hired brisk peddlers), Pyotr Yeliseyevich himself set sail for a ship where oranges grow on trees, like apples in Russia.
He intended to go to the south of fertile Spain, where, according to rumors, Petersburg merchants — mainly from the Germans and the French — bought colonial goods. But the ship, for some reason, first stopped on the island of Madeira. Both the island covered with forest (translated from Russian Madeira — “country of forests”) and the city of Funchal really liked our traveler. He appreciated the wines there — Madeira, Malvasia and Verdello. In St. Petersburg — a cold slushy autumn, and in Madeira, eternal summer blooms wildly. He saw gardens that he had never met: unknown fruits were hiding in the shade of leaves, and papaya grew directly from the bare gray trunks. Communicating with local people he was helped by sailors who knew a little Portuguese, but they had to sail further. And Peter Eliseevich bravely decided to stay in Funchal alone, agreeing that on the way back the ship would take him home.
He rode and walked around the island, examining the vegetation and strange neat round green hills; like sea waves, they looked like one another, as if made with one hand. In the first