Street vendors are a common part of cities around the world. The inability to pay high rent or the lack of cheap commercial space has pushed these small merchants onto the streets, and, in some cases, to cellars, as in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
Known as “klek” stores, these basement shops are unique to the city of Sofia. The stores are located in the basement of various buildings, with a single window facing the sidewalk, usually below knee level. This is why they are known as “Klek” shops (klek in Bulgarian means “squatting/crouching”). The products are displayed on the sidewalk and, when a customer wants to order something, he has to squat down and talk to the merchant, whose face can only be seen in a dark basement.
Klek shop owners were some of the first entrepreneurs in Bulgaria after the fall of communism more than twenty years ago. When communism fell and private ownership of production became legal, these were one of the first small businesses to appear. The basements became small shops, which served the citizens with drinks, snacks, alcohol and cigarettes..
Very colorful and covered by glass, the store shelves display everything they offer. Sometimes, instead of the actual goods, pictures of the products are shown.
Some klek shops even engaged in shoe repair and other similar services.. Many of the shops stay open late into the night and sometimes even 24/7.
Unfortunately, Klek stores are slowly fading over time.