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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Old Town’s Most Enduring Shop

Published on March 13th, 2014 in Shopping

 

  

Koula Jan a Syn store front (photo courtesy of www.nelso.cz) | Koula Jan a Syn interior (photo courtesy of http://stary-web.zastarouprahu.cz/)

  

Dušní Street, in the heart of Prague’s fashionable Josefov district, an upscale quarter where celebs power lunch and shop, hasn’t entirely lost its historical appeal, though if you ask Božena Koulova Old Town has become a little too new. Mrs. Koulova would know. As the proprietress of Koula Jan a Syn, a locksmith’s shop (zámečnictví) at Dušní 1 (est. 1937), she has witnessed a transformation in the area.

 

 

    

Dušní Street

 

Owned by the same family for over 100 years – the shop began life in 1912 as a železářství on nearby Havelská Street, a kind of store where one could buy metal fixtures in addition to keys and locks – Koula Jan a Syn has survived two world wars, Communist nationalization, and gentrification. Mrs. Koulova (86) married into the family in 1950 and has worked in the business ever since. These days she gets by with a little help from her 60-year-old son, but on the afternoon of my visit she was alone in the shop and more than happy to chat.

 

 

Tools of the trade (photo courtesy of www.ceskatelevize.cz)

 

I learned some fascinating facts: The shop’s interior, with its floor-to-ceiling shelving and drawers, was featured in a British film as a stand-in for a jewelry store. In the thirties and forties, the Koulas made deliveries in a wheelbarrow. In 1948, Mrs. Koulova’s feisty mother-in-law wrote a letter to the president after the shop was ordered to be sealed under the communist regime. It was later re-opened. (In fact, the Koulas have a 120-volt elevator that was never switched to 220 volts when the Czech Republic updated its efficiency standards after WWII; they weren’t sure they’d be able to keep the space!)

 

 

Koula Jan a Syn interior - office (photo courtesy of http://stary-web.zastarouprahu.cz/)

 

But the most impressive tidbit Mrs. Koulova shared with me is that she still works every day serving at least 50 customers, a number of which are tourists who purchase the “love padlocks” that couples lock to the pedestrian bridge by the Kampa water wheel.

 

 

  

Left: Mrs. Koulova serving a customer  |  Right: Padlocks in the shop window

 

While Mrs. Koulova kept mum on exactly how much she pays in rent, she did say that the city of Prague owns the government-protected building that Koula Jan a Syn shares with the Michelská Pekárna bakery next door, itself a smart choice for a coffee-and-cake break. Hardware geeks, history buffs, even film aficionados – the historic facades of Dušní have been featured in numerous Czech movies including Kdo chce zabít Jessii? (1966) and Marečku, podejte mi pero! (1976) – will appreciate this hidden treasure of a shop and its surrounds.

 

 

  

Tasty treats at the Michelská Pekárna bakery next door

 

 

Koula Jan a Syn

Dušní 1, Prague 1
tel 608 745 419
metro Staroměstská
hours Mon-Thur 9:30-17, Fri 9:30-16:00

 

 

 

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