Barbara Yost -- The Arizona Republic -- Dec. 31, 2003

Foods come from Russia with love

Joseph Stalin's favorite wine was a semi-dry Georgian red called Khvanchkara. Who knew?

Abram Sulaymanov knows. He also knows about Beluga caviar, chocolates from St. Petersburg and Latvian rye bread the color of black coffee.

Sulaymanov owns the Russian Market at 19th and Northern avenues in Phoenix [behind McDonald's], where many of the Valley's estimated 4,000 former Soviets and Americans of Russian descent come to taste the Motherland.

They can find Russian-language newspapers from New York and Los Angeles. They can watch Mexican soap operas dubbed in Russian. They can purchase phone cards to call home.

But it's the caviar that is the jewel of the Russian Market, little black and red pearls as precious as gems -- from $16 a pound to $27 for a 2-ounce tin of black gold.

Sulaymanov prefers a red caviar, such as the kosher salmon caviar, at $23 a pound.

It makes a great treat for New Year's Eve, he says, and looks like a decoration on the holiday table.

Sulaymanov, 56, came to the United States from Uzbekistan in 1994, preceded by several relatives. In the city of Fergana, he had been the director of a department store, a complex that included a clothing store, dry cleaner, barber shop and photography studio.

"It was like a mini-mall in one building," says friend and longtime customer Rick Martin, who learned Russian while serving in the U.S. Army in the late 1980s. He is married to a Russian woman, Larisa, who helps her husband translate for Sulaymanov and his wife of 33 years, Svetlana.

Martin and his wife are regulars at the Russian Market, and they also lend their marketing skills to the business.

Sulaymanov left his homeland with a wave of emigrants hoping for better opportunities in America. There is more entrepreneurship here, he says.

Since he took over the old International Market four and a half years ago, Sulaymanov has doubled its size. It's more than a shop, Martin says, it's a gathering place for Valley Russians, many of whom also have come for economic and political reasons, including Jewish Refuseniks of the 1970s and another wave that began arriving after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"It's fantastic," Martin says. "It's a cultural embassy for Eastern Europeans - not only Russians but Bosnians, Serbs and Bulgarians."

Abram and Svetlana plan to celebrate New Year's Eve tonight with their two children and one grandchild. Svetlana says the menu could include a chicken or beef roast, Russian beet soup called borscht, perhaps beef stroganoff and, of course, caviar and good Russian vodka.

She says she likes America and hopes the new year will bring "good fortunes."

In Russian, that's s novym godom.

Russian Market
7828 N. 19th Ave.

(602) 433-2525
9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-8597, or

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