Today I had the pleasure of entering the Russian General store in Houston, Texas and having the chance to sit down and speak with Mr. Alexander Kogan while his business partner, Ms. Anna Levitin tended to the business, they have shared for over 20 years! Ms. Levitin is a bit shy and didn’t wish to be photographed, although you’ll have to trust me that she is quite the attractive lady! Smart as a whip too according to Mr. Kogan! I think he feels a bit badly that she’s been taking on so much more than her fair share of the work load since he became ill as he mentioned his gratitude more than once toward Ms. Anna Levitin. Very touching to see these two friends in business together still after so many years. What a team!
Mr. Kogan was born in Bukhara, Uzbekistan back when it was part of the Soviet Union – it is now an independent state. However, he spent the majority of his years growing up in Leningrad, (now St. Petersburg). Although he has travelled quite a bit in his lifetime!
When I asked Mr. Kogan why he came to America? He replied, “Curiosity!”. What a bold move!!! He had to give up his Russian citizenship in order to come to America. Back home in the Soviet Union, Mr. Kogan was a degreed Biologist and Zoologist. He was helped upon his arrival and supported by an International rescue committee. Initially, he took a job in a commercial printing company. Kogan had been a photographer in the Soviet Union and soon realized by his estimate, that the Soviet Union was lagging behind by about 30 years where photography was concerned so he quickly caught up. Nowadays, there is not a lag however in technology at all in Russia. Eventually he became the Head of a Research Photography Unit at Baylor College of Medicine. One thing led to another and he ended up here with Ms. Levitin and this marvelous Russian General Store! Although Mr. Kogan has never returned to his homeland, he does still Skype with his remaining family back home.
Adorable, hand-painted Russian gifts are throughout the store and are gorgeous! I loved the card selection too!
I could have sat and listened to Mr. Kogan and asked him questions for hours!!! He has that gleam in his eye of mischief and a great sense of humor to match his fun personality!! Ms. Anna Levitin on the other hand, was steadily busy running the store while we were chatting it up. According to Mr. Kogan, his partner, Ms. Levitin has been doing the majority of the work running the store since he became ill. You can tell just how appreciative he is that he has a strong woman like Ms. Levitin as the primary care-taker of The Russian General Store!
There are tons of books, trinkets, and food! I was thinking how nice it would be for a Russian child to have a book from “home” when living/visiting here long-term. Nice to know where their parents can shop to bring some comforts of home to their new home here!
When I asked him what his favorite thing in America was, he stated, “In Russia you belong to the government, here to yourself”. He had me laughing about how when he first arrived he just ate nothing but meat practically his first 15 years here as in Russia it was so expensive that you were unable to get the same meat, etc. back then. It is impossible for us here in America to truly be able to understand all the differences in culture, lifestyle, etc. and times have also changed since, for both countries. Although, he did feel Russian’s in general might be happier or at least have fewer worries such as medical care as everyone has health coverage there. Education is also at no cost provided you pass the required tests. Of course one must be sure to realize that this was 37 years ago that Mr. Kogan recalls these memories and is quick to point out that Russia is no longer this way.
The Russian General Store at 9629 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, TX 77096 has a fantastic collection of Russian and other hard to find beer and wine from all over the world!
Even Kosher Wine! But I liked seeing all the different foods the most!
Mr. Kogan has a son here in Houston, Mikhail. Mikhail turns out is an artist! So, you know me…I HAD to see his work!!! I am fortunate enough that Mr. Kogan sent me a few images of his work – thanks!
I love the use of the bold colors of Mikhail’s works and although they are a bit “dark” in nature, I think a lot of children are terrified of Santa and it sorta cracked me up! You can see more of Mikhail’s works on Facebook.
Mikhail Kogan’s artistic concentration is mainly rooted in surrealism, post-modern expressionism and abstract art. Through the use of colored pencils, water colors, acrylic paint, and charcoal, Mikhail creates original works of art with meaning and personal expression. Mikhail creates unique originals and commissioned art that is open to individual interpretation and understanding.
I also learned of Mr. Kogan and his partner. Ms. Anna Levitin’s sponsorship of “Around The Corner”, which is a Folk Dancing Center and Children’s Theatre. What generous people! Hear Anna puts a lot of work into this as well!! Seems Ms. Levitin is always on the go and working hard!
“Za Uglom” (“Around the corner”): their dancing group “Uzori” and rehearsal of children theater for their performance of “The wizard of Oz”
Nice that the dance troop and children’s theatre is so close to their hearts!
What a great collection of interesting items!! I HAD to get 2 chocolate eggs with prizes inside!
Hope you enjoyed! Next time you want to treat yourself to a fun adventure, check out The Russian General Store!
As always, I thank each of you for your support and value you all! Thanks for visiting!
Elizabeth and Max