Social media saves traditional herb shop in the heart of Prague

When an old-fashioned herb shop in central Prague announced its closure, support on social media led to a new lease of life. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 04.02.2022 15:59:00 (updated on 04.02.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Modern technology is often portrayed as causing the demise of traditional ways of life. E-commerce has sounded a death knell for many brick-and-mortar stores, and social media is criticized for taking human interaction away from physical reality and into the digital sphere.

Yet the role played by social networks in a feelgood Prague story will soften the hearts of even the harshest critics of the modern world.

At the end of January, Prague's famous Herbata store, selling a wide range of herbs, tea blends and spices, as well as soaps, ointments and other products, announced that it would close after more than four decades. Customers were invited to make final purchases through the company’s website, with the doors set to close for good on May 31, 2022.

But a wave of sadness built up on social media after Pavel Maurer, a gastronomy expert and author of an independent guide to restaurants in the Czech Republic, shared the sad news. Maurer lamented the planned closure of the shop, and what it signified for the future of Prague.

“Great sadness!!! (not only for Praguers). The largest and probably best-stocked herb and spice shop in the Czech Republic will close after almost 47 years,” he wrote. “The place which everyone found in the Old Town on the … corner of Dlouhá and Tynska, which always smells like herbs and friendliness on the pavement.”

“Another old Prague icon is about to disappear from unique color of Prague,” he continued. “Two messages: 1. Buy herbs and spices while they are still here. 2. Would someone like to take over and continue this tradition? Otherwise, there will probably be an ATM, pizzeria, trdelník … or casino here.”

Maurer’s lament clearly touched a nerve. The post received hundreds of comments and a thousand shares in just a few days.

After this outpouring of emotion made Herbata’s closure well-known, an interested party soon got in touch with an offer to buy the store and keep it running.

“Thanks to the post on social media, an interested party said they would like to continue selling herbs and spices here. So it seems that the business will not end after all,” said current owner Klára Matušková, who will nonetheless be leaving the store for personal reasons.

The identity of the new owner is not yet known, and difficult times could still lie ahead. But Herbata’s rescue by the online community shows that when it comes to society’s digital transformation, things are never black and white. Technology often blamed for the downfall of local businesses can also unite people to breathe a new lease of life back into much-loved traditional favorites.

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