Once upon a time, there was a little boy called Ivan Meetin. Although at the age of five he was resolute to stop growing up, he finally did. As time went by, his ideas got bigger but they never loosed the unmistakable childlike essence.
Poetry in the Streets - Where it all Began
He and other people were writing famous Russian verses in papers they’d after leave in different parts of Moscow city. The idea was to connect pedestrians as they found the writen pages out.
Ivan’s second project consisted on an appartment - in Moscow, once again - which rent was payed by anyone that visited it. Just like the wooden construction hold on the cups of trees, Treehouse was meant to be a small world, build up with playmates. Maybe, it's most attractive characteristic was that there, adults regulations loosed their validity.
Treehouse was working well, but Ivan - a fresh but yet realistic mind - feared he wouldn't be able to support the place anymore in future time. “It’s not easy to keep such a place in a city.” Specially when it’s an expensive city like Moscow.
For non Russian nor German speaking readers wondering what does “Ziferblat” mean, you can just relax about it. Ivan chose “Ziferblat” because he liked how it sounds and not because of what it refers to: “Like The Beatles: we all know the band’s name sounds terribly but phonetically it works."
A Free Space
Ziferblat is the place where you can do almost anything you want, need to do or imagine: doing the laundry, listening to or playing a piano concert, having some coffee with friends or strangers, reading or writing a book, eating or cooking, riding a scooter and so on… Options may vary depending in which particular Ziferblat you are and the people you are surronded by.
The first Ziferblat was opened in Moscow. Soon, other Ziferblats appearead in the city, as well as in many others: Saint Petersburg, Kiev, London, New York. Each is managed by different persons, whose main assigment is to keep Ziferblat's unique atmosphere throughout diversity. A place where you only have to pay for the time you’ve spent at should be cozy and keep a solid rhythm as it gathers people with different life stories, tastes, professions, minds, dreams, fears, personalities and hairstyles…
How is it possible to keep all Ziferblats beating together? “It’s all about good communication" Ivan explains, "we have meetings with all the managers regularly. It's important thet the people I’m working with understand the Ziferblat process consciously, that’s why I give them freedom to do whatever they want in their headquarters.”
Things you might want to know about Ziferblat
Where is it, exactly?
It’s not easy to find the place itself. A Ziferblat may be inside a residential building or masked between other shops at a gallery. Why? “My previous project, the Treehouse, was actually the tree from where Zifeblats began to grow, like apples... Apples are delicious, right? So, I did what we normally do with any delicious thing: I've hidden Ziferblats!”
“Without past there is no future. Every human being is connected to the past, that’s how we can understand ourselves. Personally, I prefer retro furniture ‘cause, appart from being comfortable and cozy, they have a soul, a story; on the contrary, I find new pieces of furniture sterile.”
A social project, not a business model
Ivan’s not incredulous: Ziferblat is a project growing: “I know that the more it grows, the more it looses its original idea: but I can’t stop” As it usually happens, an innovative and successful idea is followed by a totally corrupted mind: nowdays, in Moscow, many stores charge people for the time they’ve spent at the restaurant, plus whatever they’ve ordered. Ivan’s mission is to stop these suspicious-mind businessmen by opening new Ziferblats. Of course, he misses those days where there was just one Ziferblat and he had plenty of free time.
Cigarettes and alcohol are not welcomed in Ziferblat. I've heard no prohibitions regarding taking naps but I haven't seen people doing so, neither.
As it should be a real life social network, if you are planning to finish your work and keep on socializing with your laptop, you’d better go to any other coffee chain store. “Many of our guests - Ivan doesn’t use the word 'customs' - come here just for the coffee or tea”. Instead of meeting new people or having a conversation with a stranger they might not see never again, they behave just as they’d do in any café: “That’s because they are grown-ups”
Ivan Meetin: CEO of Ziferblat. He does go to standard cafés, from time to time. He assures he doesn’t fight against them: “Ziferblat is today, what traditional cafés used to be: a place where people could not only have some coffee, but also where they could discuss the news, for example, with the rest of the clients. Humanity had always had the need of a meeting place: the cavern had that function once.” Ziferblat is only three years old and though it's still a young project, Ivan knows he’ll have to close it some day. As that distant day arrives, wherever you might find a hidden Ziferblat sign, don’t hesitate to step in.