The “brat’ched” who changed Bulgaria forever…
The Israeli man Eli Egosi came unexpectedly with a goal to build the first most successful shopping center in Bulgaria and start the modern trade.
-Brat’ched (Bulgarian slang for “cousin”), this city will be shining brightly once we celebrate the opening. I will make you proud, you will see…
Sofia’s mayor, then Boyko Borissov, was looking at me rather stunned and in his eyes, I could read the following question: “Max, who is this guy and why does he call me his cousin…”
Only if he knew that this conversation had its own foreword. A couple of months ago, I got a call from a strange guy, speaking Bulgarian, who informed me he was an ex-Israeli diplomat, now manager, and really wants us to meet. Urgently… Right now!
My rich experience shows that
when someone wants to have a meeting so eagerly,
they most definitely would start some kind of a new project, but if they invite me for a hotel breakfast at 7 am, then they certainly are closing their business. These facts are one hundred percent proven by time and there has never been an exception to the rule. And so, Eli Egosi showed up in my office, but there wasn’t even a glimpse during our meeting of the revolution that was soon going to happen in Bulgaria…
“I am starting a unique project, the investors were shocked to find out that in Sofia, or even in Bulgaria there isn’t a single canyon (from Hebrew - shopping center) and I am here to begin the building of the first one…”
I was listening and watching him without much trust, but when we got in my car to see where exactly this shopping center would be and stopped the car at the crossroad of the two central boulevards “Stamboliyski” and “Opalchenska”, I cut him off a little nervously:
“Look, my friend, you are kidding me, right!
There is no way you would get permission to build a huge shopping center here, this is the center of the center of Bulgaria’s capital.
I have visited Israel multiple times, and as it is known even in America, big shopping buildings are located outside the cities to ease the parking and to handle the enormous client flow. The man, whose name in Bulgarian was closer to a female one, took out a couple of papers of the folder he was holding under his arm, and said: “We have every permission we need. We are going to meet the mayor of the city, Stefan Sofianski, and actually have a meeting in an hour to tell him in detail about this incredible project…
The then mayor of Sofia carefully went through all the documents we had provided, catalogues, brochures, projects, permissions… and stated with his legendary smile: “Please gentlemen, don’t show me some brochures, I'm sick of them. Present me something specifically…”
And that’s how it all started.
Eli, whose full name was Eliezer, an ex-Israeli Consul in LA, has had some experience with a couple of shopping malls in Poland and now was full of enthusiasm to build the first one in Bulgaria.
The first thing he asked me was how to say “ben dod” (cousin - from Hebrew) and when i told him that an apostrophe in the middle of the word can change its whole meaning, making the opposite person feel closer, he has started using it ever since. And when referring to me - he would literally put this exact word in the beginning of every sentence…
A month passed by and we were standing in one of the conference halls in my office, the investors insisted on finding out why Eli and I offered to name the project using
the American term “mall”,
rather than casually calling it with the Bulgarian equivalent “supermarket” or so …
Of course, we had good arguments and while we were writing a hundred-page program on how to promote the new name in Bulgarian, it shortly became useless. The first step from this very serious project was to safely tear down an abandoned old building, which would become the foundation of the future Mall of Sofia, and together with Eli we spent the whole night going back and forth the neighborhood to warn the people not to go out during the day, because there would be controlled explosions… Despite that, some of the windows got damaged and the next day every newspaper in town, well the news on the TV, too, loudly announced the following, which was very worrying for us by the way: “A mall in Sofia has severely broken the windows in nearby buildings, no one was hurt...”. And just like that, the magic word “mall” quickly became a part of the native language, because of the many press titles and there was no need for any marketing at all…
Without a doubt, Mall of Sofia and Eli Egosi left their mark and changed the market culture in Bulgaria forever, made a difference in the way we shop, leveled-up the standards, and influenced the
whole understanding of what shopping is.
No one would ask what “mall” is because the word has now a prominent place in our language, unlike - I’m quite sure - any other European country…
With the speed of the light, in Sofia and not only there, way too many malls were opened, in fact every Bulgarian city or even village claimed to have a “mall”, but hardly any of them knew how hard Eli Egosi, an ex-Israeli diplomat in America with desire to live permanently in Bulgaria, had been trying to incorporate it in our daily life. Every single day!
We opened Mall of Sofia in 2006 with an amazing party as the first ever mall in the Bulgarian history. There were actors, playing the roles of the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius as if they were accepting the word “mall” in the Bulgarian language, but far more important was that months after that, malls were the new talk of the town,
springing up like mushrooms after rain.
And Bulgaria just became … a different country.
The culture of spacious shopping and entertaining centers changed only in a matter of weeks into something really close to the whole Sofia, and not only - curious people from all over the country would travel hours just to see the miracle called “mall” …
I stopped by Eli’s or… Eliezer, if you like, a month ago to see his new project… He was quite emotional and thrilled as if he would start something all over again. I’m sure very soon he will succeed with it, as well, completely forgetting he is a diplomat, but rather already an innovator. Because the achievement Eli Egosi did for the first time in Bulgaria without a doubt changed its history for good.