Business News Bagel king opens Czech Republic's first museum of communism

27-12-2001 | Ian Willoughby

Our first interviewee is a man who has made a significant contribution to good eating in Prague - he's American businessman Glenn Spicker, the man who introduced that most wonderful of foods the bagel to the city. Bagels, if you don't know them, are bread shaped like a donut (with a hole) but bigger, and are a traditional Jewish food. Glenn Spicker now has two branches of his Bohemia Bagels in Prague. Mr. Spicker also owns a couple of bars in the city but on St. Stephen's Day he was due to open the doors of a new business to the public - the Czech Republic's first museum of communism.

Radio Prague spoke to Glenn Spicker about what prompted him to open a bagel shop in Prague..

"Like the museum of communism, nobody had done it. Everyone had talked about doing a bagel store but no-one had actually done it. Nobody had talked about doing a museum of communism and nobody had done it. The idea came to us one evening and it was like "Eureka!" - it hasn't been done, let's do it. And it became an obsession and a passion and I had to do it."

The Museum of Communism is located in the Savarin Palace, around a minutes walk from the bottom of Wenceslas Square on the fashionable Na Prikope street. The space - some 400 square metres - is sub-leased from McDonalds, who have an outlet downstairs in the same building.

The Czech documentary maker Jan Kaplan acted as adviser to Mr. Spicker on the project. The museum features a vast array of objects from the Communist era, everything from school books to military equipment. Jan Kaplan said finding the material did not prove such hard work.

"We purchased it with Mr Spicker in all sorts of antique shops and bookshops, of which there are many in Prague, so it wasn't that difficult."

Czechs have had a capitalist economic system for twelve years now. Does Jan Kaplan believe that some Czechs are nostalgic for the old system - communism?

"I don't know. I would imagine that for a lot of people certain aspects of communism - I hope they were not that many...certainly the prices were not as high as they are today. And there weren't so many tourists. Tourists are wonderful and I'm really glad that so many people come to Prague but sometimes it takes me an hour and a half to cross Charles Bridge. But it's wonderful - everybody is welcome in Prague. And I think this is a wonderful contribution to the history of Prague."

Tens of millions of tourists visit Prague every year and I'm sure that Glenn Spicker is hoping that many of them pay a visit to his new museum.

When most people open a new business they may have the usual worries - will it take off, how long will it be before the business turns a profit, that kind of thing. But Mr. Spicker had more to worry about, and - as a foreigner - expected flak for opening the museum.

"I expected criticism because I didn't live through communism. And I came here after the revolution. And I'm a foreigner. I expected criticism - that no matter what we did some people were going to say you haven't gone far enough and some people were going to say you've gone too far. I more feared a reaction from organisations or the state - they might not like and want to get back at us, some kind of retribution."

Fortunately for Mr. Spicker his fears have not become a reality.

"The reaction has been fantastic. Most people really accept it, really think it's a good idea. They just want to see it done well and I think we did do it well and I think we have a lot of room to improve on it. Now that it's open I think it's time to work with people who have more experience or have a story to tell."

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