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Old perfume shop conjures up past memories


09-01-2016 00:22 BJT

When we think of where to buy perfumes and fragrances these days, department stores, Sephora, or the duty free section at airports come to mind. But it wasn't always so. A small shop in Belgrade is keeping a fading craft alive - and giving its customers a scent of the past. The Sava Perfumery has been around since World War 2 and has witnessed the recent turbulence in the Serbian capital.

Nenad Jovanov gives a customer a spray of perfume using a 1930's sprinkler. She's chosen her scent and gets a free spray to wear on the way home. Once they've purchased a bottle of perfume, Jovanov's customers can come back for a cheaper refill.

This small shop in Belgrade is the last keeper of a dying craft.

"Sava Perfumery" is the only one of its kind still left in Serbia's capital - a small family business of homemade perfumes and other beauty products. Shops like these once thrived, but have vanished since mass production took over.

"No final product from any cosmetic company has ever been on offer here. I am proud to say that from the very first day we were open until today, this has been a place of production," said Nenad Jovanov.

Jovanov still mixes scents the old-fashioned way, adding various ingredients to the perfume base.

Long measure tubes and all-size bottles capped with filters fill out the working counter at the back of the perfumery, where Jovanov adds minute drops to the mixture.

Set up shortly before World War II, almost everything inside the shop dates back to the time when his father and uncle first opened in 1941, just months before the Nazi occupation of Belgrade in WWII.

"Shortly before the start of World War II in our region, some two months before the bombing of Belgrade, my uncle, who was four years older than my father, opened together with his brother, but in his name, the first perfumery. Since our family saint day is called Djurdjevdan, they called the perfumery Djurdjevak. They were ambitious, they started working, creating their own line," said Nenad Jovanov.

The shop's long history is the reason the customers keep coming back.

"This old time shop has a soul, which feels very good. I consider modern shops to be very cold and I have no desire to stick around," said customer Vera Brankovic.

Even with scores of loyal customers, the business is hardly profitable, but Jovanov insists he will keep it alive for as long as he can.

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