Calif; or, the death of a brand.

October 31, 2020 by Lucian Mogosanu

Ante scriptum: I happen, for the time being, to live in this decaying town in Southern Romania, going by the name of Bucharest. It's not an interesting town, and perhaps my life is not that interesting either, yet it is what it is and I'm documenting bits of it here on my blog, for my own reference. Anyway, the story isn't in any way new, but I hope you'll enjoy it nevertheless.

Along with the great economic liberalization of the 1990s, Bucharest has grown somewhat of an atypical street food market. I guess that from this particular point of view, Our Great Capital looks a tiny bit like New York, except the food truck scene started blooming late, just after 2010, while all the way through the '90s and the '00s, da Bucharestian hood became populated with small Turkish-style shawarma places at the corner of each hruscheba1 -- so I guess in weird, twisted sense, Bucharest is somewhat similar to Dusseldorf, what with all the Turkish food. So being the small and sometimes very questionable businesses that they are, the shawarmeries endured and many still do. Meanwhile, some of them got big, and this is where we get to the shiniest star of 'em all: Calif.

It must have been 2010 or 2011, I don't remember all that clearly. I was hanging out with an old buddy in ye olde historical centre, which back then was looking much sadder and more desolated than now. Still, it was a pretty good place to drink your guts off all through the night, and boys need to go stuff their stomachs somewhere after a night of clubbin'. So then, there it was, a little opening in the ground floor of a decrepit building, where some dudes prepared what was arguably the best shawarma in town at the time; at least the ol' buddy assured me that I haven't eaten shit like this before, and indeed I hadn't and the rest is, as they say, history.

Just a few years later, the Calif guys made a few ballsy moves within this fast food market. For example in 2013 or so they opened their biggest restaurant near UPB, and that one was actually full almost all round the clock; and I'm no culinary expert, but the thing tasted pretty good, if only for a while. It was still delicious, though perhaps not that good, in 2016 when I came back in the country, and by 2017 they got so big that they came with a whole new marketing strategy of sorts, centred around healthy fast food, since all their ingredients were made on the spot at the time, none of that prepackaged bullshit2.

Then 2019 came, and... some of the folks living in Bucharest might be aware of this phenomenon -- or not, what do I know. I clearly remember, it was pre-covid, yet one of the Raiffeisen offices in the town centre, right across the street from the Palace Hall, simply closed one day. This was July, yet I could smell the poverty back from April, when these previously-honest Calif folks sold me some pretty shitty stuff. And down it went from there, meaning their super-strategy of selling premium (previously dubbed "healthy") fast food flopped, since I suspect there's no way to grow in this town but horizontally. And yeah, they started opening shops in malls, which led them to hire incompetent shawarmars -- in other words, times got hard, meanwhile business got shitty and it started cracking at the seams. There's scarcely any normal people who want to do some actual, honest work in this shitty town, so the whole thing meanwhile eroded quickly, bringing us to the sad present.

So just a few days before I began writing this here article, I realized that the Calif brand has reached a point of no return. I guess the folks had gone so deep down the rabbit hole that they were left with no choice, since they recently partnered with one of the locally-established multinational supermarkets to sell -- I bet you guessed -- prepackaged versions of their previously-great food. If this is not the death of a brand, and of marketing, and of fucking civilization in general, then I don't know what is.

I sure hope the guys at Calif understand that they fucking ruined shawarma -- se aude acolo în fund? The lowest of the lowest coteț selling wraps on the streets of Ferentari is now levels above this. May this ruin rest in pieces, like all the others before and after it.

  1. For those with a passion for textual digging, let's leave the actual quote here, like civilized people:

    asciilifeform: ro is blessed with a capital that nobody wants to live in because hat man wrecked it and filled with hruschebas

    Only all the stupid and their dog wants to live here, and not for the town's great beauties, but because this is where all the sexy money is. I bet it sounds quite hypocritical of me, a dude working in an "IT" saltmine, to mention Bucharest and sexy money in the same sentence. Well, for one, I was born here; and as for the other, I was doing computers wahahay before it became every nerd chick's favourite pastime. So whatever, go hate somewhere else, mmkay? 

  2. Being the recluse that I am, I didn't really follow all the fancy-schmancy events at the time. Some Ro bloggers got involved, however, and it looks like they're still alive

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  1. [...] and cleaning, which, for all its frugality, proved to be a more pleasant experience than most hipstery eateries in town. The lodging experience in particular is, I expect, still better than some places in town, [...]

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