Setting Up a Vegetable Store in Hungary


Last week I saw this delightful little vegetable and fruit store in Szolnok. (Zöldség-Gyümölcs means “vegetables-fruit.”) I thought, I want one of those! Upon inquiring further, I learned that it’s relatively easy to acquire and set up such a store. First, you have to purchase a kit, which contains all the materials for building the hut. Once you have this, you present your receipt to the Zöldségminisztérium (the Ministry of Vegetables); this launches the application process.

To apply for a permit, you must pass a written test of your knowledge of vegetables, arithmetic, and paprikás recipes. Two individuals must sign a form attesting to your existence. You must submit any relevant residence, tax, and health numbers, along with their accompanying documentation; must give your proposed business a name (“Zöldség-Gyümölcs” is just fine); and must resubmit any of these forms as requested (since there will usually be an error somewhere). The entire process takes from three months to five years. Then, once everything is approved, you can begin selling vegetables!

The only catch is that the land beneath your store is not yours. You rent it at a low rate, but if the municipality decides to do anything else with it, you must move your store elsewhere. This is not difficult; it takes about an hour to disassemble and reassemble the hut (especially if you have kept the tools that came in your kit). If you are moving a short distance, you can accomplish the whole thing before breakfast.

If, while waiting for your permit, you decide not to go through with the project, you can resell your kit; there’s almost no risk involved. So I am seriously considering this; I don’t know when I would have time to sell vegetables, but I hear that you can do it part-time. You just post a permanent “Nyitva” (“Open”) sign on your door; people will understand that sometimes you are open in theory but not in practice. You open in practice when it fits your schedule to do so.

How can you even hope to compete with all the other vegetable stores around? You must place yourself strategically. In the photo above, you can see a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the distance; people coming to and from KFC may well want a little health boost. You can tempt them with ready-washed carrots and tomatoes; scallions and parsley; even strawberries. It’s what’s known as a “piros-zöld paprika,” literally a “red-green pepper,” or, in idiomatic speech, the equivalent of a “win-win situation.”

All in all, it seems like a good opportunity. When my kit arrives, I’ll see how clear the assembly instructions are (to me). If I can figure out how to put the hut together, that will signal to me that I should proceed with the larger undertaking.


Update: This was an April Fool’s joke. I included an “April Fool’s” tag, but it seems that the tags are not visible on mobile devices (and only barely visible on computers, since they appear in pale font). There is no Ministry of Vegetables.