Russian merchants are famous for their entrepreneurial talents, multimillion-dollar deals and adventurous agreements, when one believed another's word, and a handshake was considered the most faithful seal. One of these enterprising people is the Russian tea merchant Alexei Semenovich Gubkin.
He didn't just sell tea in Russia - he founded a dynasty of tea suppliers. True, he was not the only one. Historians know the names of the "tea barons" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Vysotsky, Popov, Klimushkin, Perlov, Botkin, Medvedev and others. However, the name of the Gubkins in this series sold out the most famous.
Alexey Semenovich was born in 1816 in the small town of Kungur near Perm. The Gubkin family was patriarchal, religious, Alexei and his two brothers were brought up in severity. His father was a merchant: he was engaged in the transportation of goods between Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Siberian cities.
The brothers did not go to school - they received primary education at home.
In Kungur, most of the artisans were engaged in leather: shoes, mittens and other products. The Gubkin family owned a small tannery, which over time began to be jointly managed by three brothers. They were doing well, the work was getting on, and everything was fine until the price of leather fell.
Then Alexei began to think about the need to switch to the tea trade - it was a rare and expensive product, and it was possible to make a good profit on it. Due to the high cost of tea, it was not widely used, but Gubkin came up with his own strategy, which later helped him a lot.
The beginning of a tea merchant career
Selling tea at that time was troublesome: you had to go to the border with China and change various fabrics there for tea, and then deliver it across Russia. However, the difficulties did not frighten the young merchant, and he exchanged everything he had for tea and started his own business, separated from the brothers.
He made real journeys through Siberia, across Mongolia, rode horses to Irkutsk and Tomsk, where there were famous fairs. There he sold tea. And what was left, Gubkin was taking to Nizhny Novgorod, where there was also a big fair, and there he was already bargaining with merchants from Nizhny Novgorod, Petersburg and Moscow.
It was characteristic of these fairs that everyone bought and sold tea in large quantities. Then they split them into smaller ones and sent them each to their customers. This greatly increased the cost of retail, and not everyone could afford tea.
For merchants, this was not profitable because tea was sold out for a very long time. It was necessary to wait for a large buyer, negotiate a price with him without losing his profit and taking into account all the costs.
Here Gubkin applied his strategy: he sorted the tea into varieties, and adjusted the prices accordingly. This created confidence in him as a person who knew about tea and did not try to sell a cheap variety of tea at an overpriced price. But his most important innovation is that he began to sell tea in small batches. He could weigh as much as asked, and this was convenient for small traders.
The merchants at the fair were at first indignant at this, and then they got used to it. And everyone started using the same strategy. Indeed, in any business, everyone should benefit, and small batches of tea made it possible for middle-class merchants to also become tea merchants, only on a smaller scale.
Gubkin's innovations gave him more authority among the merchants, they wanted to cooperate with him and buy only from him. The turnover of his sales grew very quickly, and his contribution to the Russian economy was appreciated by the government: he received the rank of a full state councilor and the Order of Vladimir III degree.
In 1881, being a man of advanced age, Gubkin moved to Moscow, where he bought a luxurious house that aroused admiration for its bizarre architecture. This house still stands on Rozhdestvensky Boulevard. He bought this mansion from Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, the widow of a railway entrepreneur. Gubkin highly appreciated the fact that his house has a rich history and at one time belonged to the most famous people.
True, Aleksey Semenovich managed to live here for only two years - in 1983 he died. State Councilor Gubkin was buried in his native Kungur.
Alexey Semenovich did not spend everything he earned on his family - he was a famous patron of the arts.
In Kungur, he was known as the founder of the Elizabethan Home for Poor Children. Having no education himself, he wanted children in this house to learn to read and write and all kinds of handicrafts. Here were brought up girls whose parents could not support them. Often, girls got married from the walls of this house, and then Gubkin gave them one hundred rubles as a dowry. In those days, this was a fairly significant amount.
And those who showed the ability to study, entered the women's gymnasium and also received all kinds of help from the philanthropist.
In addition to the Elizabethan House, Gubkin financed the construction of the Kungur Technical School and the School of Handicrafts, where girls learned the tricks of women's activities and became real craftswomen. Moreover, he constantly took care of all these institutions and provided, spending considerable funds on this.
He also built the Nikolsky temple in Kungur.
He did not forget his family either: his granddaughter Maria Grigorievna Ushakova received the Rozhdestveno estate as a gift from Alexei Semenovich, the cost of which was enormous. Also, Maria, along with her brother Alexander Kuznetsov, became the heir to the Gubkin case.
In 1883, a new company appeared: "The successor of Alexei Gubkin A. Kuznetsov and K", which continued the business of Alexei Semenovich.