Shop with classic Czech designs opens in building with history


Bohéma is the name of a new Prague shop selling T-shirts and other items featuring classic Czech images, from Sokol gymnasts to writer Karel Čapek. The company, previously online only, has opened the outlet in a building associated with major figures in the Czech National Revival. At its opening I spoke to Oldřich Neuberger, who founded Bohéma with his wife Eliška.

“Actually we are a non-profit, so we are doing it thinking that Czechs should be proud of their nation.

“Also there was a big celebration of 100 years of Czechoslovakia and we just wanted to get dressed with our kids and just celebrate, but we simply found out that it was very hard, that there were not that many things that we could wear that weren’t just cheap or, let’s say, stupid merchandise.

Oldřich Neuberger | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

“So that’s how we created Bohéma.”

Your motto is “Discover Czech heritage” and you draw on many classic Czechoslovak images; you have for example Masaryk, Havel, the Šumperák house. How do you select the things that you feature on your T-shirts and so on?

“At the beginning it was very easy.

“We are proud of so many Czechs, so it was just straightforward – any thought and you can come up with an idea.

“Recently we have been making a big huge list of other Czech famous important women and men and just slowly going through them as we are capable of doing it.”

Do you yourself have any favourite designs?

“That would be a pretty hard question.

“I would say that I love all of them, because it simply shows the richness of the Czech heritage.”

Bohéma | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

Bohéma has been going for a couple of years as an online business. Who has been buying your stuff?

“Our main goal and the ultimate idea is to be available for everyone, but on the other hand not to be cheap.

“So the T-shirts, which is still the main product, must be of the highest quality and with a very affordable price.

“We want any Czech to be able to purchase the product and be proud of being Czech.”

Do you get many orders from abroad? Are people of Czech heritage buying this stuff from their home countries?

“Yes, we are getting orders from all over the world.

“Those are from Czechs that are living there, so we’re not targeting foreigners but targeting Czechs that, again, want to show that they are Czech, no matter where they are.”

Bohéma | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

Retail is very much going online these days. All we read about his how e-shops are doing great. Why have you gone in the other direction, from online to brick and mortar?

“I would say that it’s another way, meaning that if you are successful online you’re wondering about opening a real business, being able to have contact with customers – because online is still pretty distant.

“So we want to show our products, we want to talk with the customers, and many of them come here eager to talk and to share their visions of what we should do, what the other important topics are, and so on.”

“So it’s working so far.”

Your shop is on Palackého St. in the centre of Prague and you were telling me that the building itself has some interesting history connected with the Czech Republic or Czechoslovakia?

Bohéma | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

“Yes, it was love at first sight.

“We discovered that this was the place that, when the Habsburg Empire was about to break, names like [František] Palacký and [František Ladislav] Rieger were planning a revolution.

“They were living above where we are standing now.

“So that was when we thought that we had to open Bohéma specifically here.”