Spanish version

Samaral: Clothing and Gifts


Gran Vía has already celebrated its first hundred years which means that, as a street, it has reached its adulthood. Sonow we have to turn to its shops which have also become ‘adults’ and therefore may be called ‘traditional shops’. One of the first buildings, number 7, houses one of the oldest shops in the street, 'Samaral'.

Before entering ‘Samaral’ there is already something that attracts our attention. On top of the shop window is a sign with its name. It is not the name but the letters which suprise us. Its font is unique and its trace will always remind us of ‘Samaral’ even if we just see a part of the name.

Early Stages

'Samaral' opened in 1934. Jose Perez de Santa María Altisent (SAnta MARia ALtisent) had Samaral-original shop windowbeen working in a shop which belonged to his aunt and uncle when he thought about becoming independent. Gran Via had been inaugurated a few years earlier and it was already a characteristic place for Madrilians and visitors.

His idea was to open a shop selling shirts like the those in London. A first class shop. The client used to sit on a chair next to the counter, where he was shown all those products he might be interested in.
After the shirts came the accessories, ties, belts, handbags… Many of these products were brought from London.
As time went by, they also sold quality craftwork, leather products, pottery, hand-painted silk, etc., but not the typical ‘kitsch’ products designed for tourists that are so often seen nowadays.

Samaral, two generations of Perez de SantamariaSecond and Third Generation

In 1948 the founder of 'Samaral' died and his two sons continued with the business. Now it is the third generation of Perez de Santa María that is in charge of the shop. Fernando Perez de Santa Maria told us the problems they have now.

Unfortunately maybe this is one of the last oportunities to visit this kind of shop. Due to a new law regarding tenancy agreements, many shops will have to close as they will not be able to pay the new rent. If the Administrative Authorities do not do anything, this legacy will be lost forever.

Apart from this problem, Gran Via , specially in its first part, has suffered a tremendous deterioration.

For example, in number 9 used to be the shop belonging to Balenciaga with all its glamor, aSamaral, presents little bit farther was 'Hispano-Suiza', the car company, on the other side of the street we have the Gran Peña Club and quite near, on Alcalá, the Casino, but between all these buildings there are many closed shops or those just selling cheap tourist junk. In many cases, just emptiness.

What should be one of the greatest streets in Madrid is becoming a desert. Fernando Perez de Santa Maria senior is usually in the shop, too. He is really sad about current situation, observing how the initial splendour is disappearing from day to day.

Due to Gran Via’s centennial many people are coming to the street and he has written a few lines about the three different areas of Gran Via and the type of public which used to visit them. Today this first area, which used to be the height of glamour and luxury is now the emptiest with less people. This situation has been well described by author Perez-Reverte in an article about all these places which we are losing due to a lack of interest by authorities.
Samaral, AngelAmong the many memories related to this shop, we can state that it did not close during the Civil War, although the entrace was protected with sacks.

In fact and for security reasons, the owners offered his employees to sleep in the cellar. Just that very day a bomb exploded next door, so that this solution did not seem so secure any more.
During that time, there was also one winter when it snowed so much, that the streets were coverd with snow for 3 or 4 days.

We would like to emphazise that ‘Samaral’ has always been in the hands of the same family and also their employees have been working there for years. They are Arturo and Angel, who have been working here for 34 and 36 years. Gerardo, who was not in the shop due to an illness, has also been here for 36 years and Yolanda, the youngest one, for 18 years.

Shop window and furniture

We all know the kind of shops around Plaza Mayor, where you can walk under the arcade inSamaral, Arturo sunny or rainy weather. In other streets, most of the shop windows are directly on the street.

In 'Samaral'an innovative system was used. In the center of the entrance there is a column which was surrounded by a shop window with many of the articles that could be found in the shop.

The main shop windows are located on both sides of this column, so that there is enough space for walking around. This is a very original entrance, which not many shops have.

We have already mentioned the font used for the logo of 'Samaral'. It was an exclusive design. They also used the space from the upper floor, so that the letters can be very big. You will not see this kind of sign in any other shop of Gran Via.
These are little, or big details, which make the difference.

Once we have entered the shop, we have to look at the counters and display stands. All made in wood. They are the original ones. ‘Samaral’ takes you back in time, to the time of the first ‘all talking, all singing, all dancing’ movies.

In the last years, new products have been added to the offer, specially those related to nautical activities.
Today we can find clothes and accessories, presents and so many different objects that time just flies while you are watching everything.

Signatures of Time

Samaral, signature by Liz Taylor'Samaral' has two kinds of ways to remember its clients. In the back of the shop there is a desk where once a client stuck a coin from his country. Many others followed suit. Now the desk is almost full, just a little space is left to write. When the clients return, they always look for their coins

Another treasure is their ‘Golden Book’. In it some of their most famous clients signed. Among them Orson Welles, Ava Gardner or Claudia Cardinale. To see their signatures is a unique experience.

We would like to thank both Fernando Pérez de Santa María for spending their time with us and sharing their memories. We would also like to attract the attention of the Town Hall in order to make them look after shops 'Samaral' so that Madrilians and visitors can enjoy them for a long time.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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