ZUGDIDI, DFWatch–A five hectare shopping mall in Rukhi, only meters from the administrative border line (ABL) with breakaway Abkhazia, is doing good business, says its director David Machavariani, speaking to DFWatch.
“Of course, the idea has justified itself, as [the mall] allows people to have more access to the services closer to their homes. People come here both from Zugdidi and the conflict zone,” he says.
The mall was opened in early 2016 in an effort to engage, and cater, people – both ethnic Abkhaz and Georgians – living across the ABL, and which it cost 14 million laris to construct.
“Our goal is to support the population living in the conflict zone and also to the wider region,” Machavariani said.
Georgian Post, banks, community center, furniture and household equipment stores are all offering their services in the trade center, where one may also find building materials and automobiles. There is also offered auto service that is particularly welcomed by people in Abkhazia, who have to cross a de facto border due to an unresolved conflict stemming back to the early 1990s.
Demand is quite high, but people sometimes face difficulties in crossing ‘the border’, the mall’s director says.
“We strive to offer customers as low prices as possible. We urge companies to lower prices and sometimes they agree. But, on the other hand, this is the private sector and they decide. In total, I think the prices are normal here,” Machavariani told DFWatch.
The people who come here from Abkhazia in order to shop are generally satisfied with the shopping center, but also complain about a few problems.
“When we built a house, we purchased all the materials – wallpaper, bathroom inventory, everything – in the Rukhi shopping center. It’s quite comfortable, especially if you have a car. A small difference in prices really exists, of course. Some goods are more expensive compared to the city, some cheaper. For instance, electronic equipment is relatively expensive, while chandeliers and electric wire is cheaper,” a 35 year old resident of the village Chuburkhinji in the Gali district told DFWatch.
“I love to be there and when I have an opportunity I always go. I like the service, but it is bad that if you buy a lot, you will be sent to the warehouse in Zugdidi. It happened when I was buying [building materials last year]. It would also be good if they had a taxi service,” he said.
“The mall is like the others in Georgia cities. I usually buy auto parts. When I compared the prices, I found out that here goods are a little bit expensive so I still prefer to buy in the bazaar. This is normal, because the stores are always more expensive than, say, the Eliava bazaar. However, generally, we welcome the exitence of this mall, because for many people it’s quite practical,” another resident of Gali told DFWatch.