When looking for ways to promote local artists and artisans, tourism seemed like an appropriate niche, thus Rope Street Museum, with its sweet location (at the end of the ever-so-visited Rope Street) is a perfect place to get people from all over the world acquainted with a part of our local cultural scene. From traditional souvenirs to unique items (like paintings made out of pebbles), to contemporary art (painting, photography, sculpture) – this place is trying to bring an alternative to a typical souvenir shop and to also support the creative vibe that this town certainly has.
1. Please tell us about who you are and what you do.
Hi, my name is Laura Bercean and, among many other projects, I am currently the manager of Rope Street Museum.
2. Share your backstory with us. How did your business or organisation come about and what was it that switched you on to this area in the first place?
I have traveled for more than 8 years abroad (worked on cruise ships) and even after that I continued working in Duty Free retail for another 3 or 4 years (actually, I still go on board from time to time as a brand ambassador for a jewelry brand), but Brașov was, is and will be my HOME, thus I always imagined I would settle down here. I love this city and its perspectives, especially from a touristic point of view. Therefore, in 2019 I took a sabbatical, and started looking for projects to both soothe my soul and be daring and stimulating enough. One of them is Rope Street Museum – a mix of art, history, handmade souvenirs and homemade treats, a place in which to create memories – right in the heart of Brașov, at one end of the famous Strada Sforii (Rope Street). We are here a tiny team of 4 who work towards promoting local artists, local artisans, and giving an alternative to “factory made” souvenirs. When tourists buy something from us, they leave with a part of authentic, talented Romania – plus, they know exactly where the money go, because we tell them about each artist and artisan that is exposed. If they are lucky, they even get to meet them in person. We have a room about #History and how Rope Street came to be, we have an #ArtRoom, where we rotate local artists on a monthly basis, we have a #HeART room, where artists have donated art for various charity projects and all the money raised there are donated and we have a small cafe + souvenir shop where people can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while going through a book (we also have an exchange book corner for which we have to thank Julia), finding gifts and souvenirs for their loved ones, to take back home… or simply looking down the street and enjoying the jazz (we always play jazz in the cafe).
3. What do you think or hope the future has in store for you and your business? Where do you see yourself or your organisation five years from now?
Five years is a long time, but I am confident that the concept of this museum / art gallery / authentic souvenir shop will still be on my agenda. I think promoting real values is a must, and even if it takes patience and investment, I am still willing to spend my energy and time and money looking for people who want to support art and the local market – one way or another, I will still be here (who knows, maybe in 5 years everything will be online! This pandemic certainly showed us this possibility).
4. How has lockdown been for you and for your business and what have you done that has helped you personally and professionally?
We have closed the doors to our museum on the 13th of March, before the authorities’ request to do so. We are dealing mainly with tourists and we did not want to endanger anyone, thus we decided to stay safe and interrupt our business. In the meantime, we managed to sell a few items online, and we also baked from time to time and made home deliveries (because we are famous around town for our #EpicBrownies) – but the business took a great hit in these 79 days in which we were closed. We will be opening again on the 1st of June, but part-time and with a completely different approach – no sitting and enjoying, everything to go; the experience will certainly not be the same, sadly. We don’t know yet if this is feasible, businesswise, and we already have almost three months to make up for – but we will do our best and try to continue this dream. On the personal side, this complete break from everything was great, because as I said I am involved in various projects – all of them time and energy-consuming, thus a break is always good. But from the point of view of my projects and budgets and P&Ls, since all of them deal with tourists, events, fashion, etc, the things are not at all pink right now. We’ll just have to be patient and see how things evolve…
5. What’s your take on Brașov and Romania. What are the highs and the lows in your opinion?
Brașov is a wonderful city – I had the opportunity to live in New York, Amsterdam, Miami, Paris, Sydney – and gave all of them up for this city, surrounded by beautiful mountains. I am the best version of myself here, I have my loved ones here, I STILL love walking around and discover new corners or places, and it never gets old. A beer company sponsored the city’s umbrellas a few years ago and it adapted their logo for Brașov – “probably the best city in the world”. For me, this is true – it probably is the best city! There are of course lows – pollution (as green as it is, Brașov deals with a lot of pollution), areas of intense poverty, chaotic social system (to be kind), etc. But I think that when we love the highs then we should also be working on improving the lows. And I am, on my end :)Romania, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated – sadly, there are lots of lows – and mostly coming from the way this country was led since 1989. We have a lack of infrastructure, plus a sick, obsolete and mostly corrupt system, but I truly hope this new wave of young, dedicated politicians will slowly, slowly turn things around. The high is that our civic society does not sleep – and I am proud to say that where the state can not or will not, people will step in and DO. This is valid in general, but also in particular in this pandemic, when we were able to see this, more clearly: the support people gave by donating to hospitals was huge!
6. What is your must do/must visit/favorite thing to do or show off to visitors here in Brașov and Romania at large?
In Romania there are lots of amazing places, I also organise private tours for foreign tourists that take 3-4 days – and I must say Moldova is amazing, Maramureș is fabulous, the Delta and the sea are gorgeous, but still, Transylvania is the most wanted tour always – and it is also my favourite, obviously! In Brașov my favourite parts are everything green (all the forests and mountains and hills), but also to just read on a bench in front of Ecaterina’s gate. In Transylvania, Sighișoara is one of my favourite places, along with Viscri – but I also love all the fortified churches around, and the tiny villages with cute houses. I just love to go and enjoy everything – to see the way people living in the countryside do things, to eat local food, to pet cows and horses, to just detach from the city’s noise and rush.
7. What is your number 1 recommendation now for a book/film/series/app/ or gadget?
I must say I have (ab)used Netflix and HBO GO these months – but I also host a Book Club, so at least 2 books a month are mandatory 🙂 Yet, what I found amazing was that museums and operas and theatres from all over the world went online and live, and allowed people to experience art – this created an international cultural bond like never before, and I took any opportunity I had to watch those shows, to virtually visit museums, etc.
8. If you could eat in any restaurant in all of Romania and have dinner with anyone in the world (not a husband/wife/relative) which restaurant would that be and with which person?
I would love to have a traditional Romanian dinner with Jacinda Ardern in Măgura (a beautiful village near Brașov), not in a restaurant though, but “all’ fresco”, maybe in a garden – so that she can experience an authentic Romania while I quiz her on how she got to be so awesome 🙂
9. Sum up your business in one sentence, what it is and why should people engage with it.
Rope Street Museum is about supporting the local cultural scene – talented artists and artisans who share their art with every guest that steps in.
10. Describe your Romania in one word
My Romania is lots of amazing things, but most of all it is KIND.