Bizim Bakkal wins against investor, for now
BERLINBizim Bakkal, a family-run Turkish grocery shop in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, has just won against property developers. The 28-year-old grocery will not be evicted, thanks to active support of the neighborhood’s residents.
Kreuzberg, known as “little Istanbul,” has become very attractive for investors in recent years. Investors have been buying the neighborhood’s cheap real estate, making renovations, then selling or renting the buildings for higher prices.
An investor bought the building of the Turkish grocery, owned by Ahmet Çalışkan, and wanted to evict all the buidling’s residents. Çalışkan had until Sept. 30 to move shop. Legally, he was unable to object the decision, and began preparing for the shop’s eviction but his neighborhood provided him the support he needed to fight the eviction.
Many of his loyal customers have staged rallies outside the shop every Wednesday for the past five weeks, with people filling the pavement, sitting atop cars and sharing their message, using megaphones, posters and stickers.
Banners of support have messages such as “Bizim Bakkal Must Stay” and “Je suis Bizim Bakkal,” borrowing the slogan from the solidarity campaign with the victims of the jihadist attacks in Paris against Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine.
The city’s Tageszeitung daily likened the plan to close the neighborhood’s oldest greengrocer to the loss of a cultural icon like a church tower, saying “We would call that barbarism. And there’s a lot we would do to stop it.”
Consequently, the investor company halted the eviction of Çalışkan. Speaking to daily Hürriyet, Çalışkan said he was happy about the decision but it was a bittersweet happiness.
“I am grateful to the whole neighborhood. The investor company asked us to stay but imposed hard conditions. The rental agreement was extended for one year and also demands double rent. [The investors] should give us a reasonable rent increase and at least a five year agreement. It is not guaranteed that we will not have the same problem next year,” he said.