Local businesses rejoice as revamped Vana-Kalamaja reopens Friday

Artist's render of the Baltijaam end of the redeveloped Vana-Kalamaja, which readers will be able to compare with the real deal, now it is open.
Artist's render of the Baltijaam end of the redeveloped Vana-Kalamaja, which readers will be able to compare with the real deal, now it is open. Source: Kavakava

A main route through the hip Tallinn neighborhood of Kalamaja reopened Friday after a year's refurbishment work saw it closed to traffic and pedestrians, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported a day before the event.

The return to normalcy will be a boon for many local businesses who saw reduced takings during the past year.

Vana-Kalamaja, a main North-South thoroughfare, has been revamped and landscaped, and runs almost from the harbor area to the edge of the Old Town, bisecting the Baltijaam train station en route.

Whereas it was formerly a two-way traffic lane, it is now a one-way street and with a greater emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian users than before.

In any case, businesses located on or near Vana-Kalamaja now have cause for celebration, as after nearly a year's disruption comes to an end, and, finally, customers can visit them again without as much effort.

Road works in progress on Vana-Kalamaja redevelopment (photo taken September 2022). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

One such store, on the corner of Vana-Kalamaja and Kotzebue, is the "Alma" home store (pictured below), which has changed little in the 30 years it has bee in operation.

Run by Mrs. Alma – Alma Sooäär – herself, now aged 87, you can find everything for the household there: Needles and threads, detergents, paints, candles, and more.

Alma Sooäär opened the business on Christmas Eve 1990, though at that time it was situated in a different location, in the Nõmme district of town.

Estonia was still under Soviet occupation at this time and opening a small, private business was still seen as a risky undertaking.

"Do you dare to do it, maybe you will go bankrupt," as some people counseled Mrs. Sooäär at the time.

The 'Alma' Store on Vana-Kalamaja on a rainy Thursday, one day before the Vana-Kalmaja street reopened to the public, September 1. Source: ERR

Indeed, over time, changes to the economy mean such small stores, as elsewhere in the world, are becoming increasingly rare with the growth of larger retail chains, malls and online shopping.

Nonetheless, braving the rainy weather Thursday were plenty of shoppers, who gave the lie to this trend.

The closure of Vana-Kalamaja was the latest challenge, Mrs. Sooäär added, noting that customer numbers fell by around three quarters over the past year.

But, she remained determined to keep the store going.

"As I have this heart's desire to do so, plus all the people in Kalamaja are happy with it, they implore me: 'For God's sake don't close down.' And as for myself, I'm having fun, she told AK."

The revamped Vana-Kalamaja opened Friday and as such is one of the first of many major central Tallinn road works to come to an end – though it started somewhat earlier than most of the other projects.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reported Ave Häkli.

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