Decades-old Istanbul record store set to close its doors
After decades serving Istanbul music lovers, a historic record store is shuttering its doors at the end of this year due to "family reasons."
“Our adventure, which started on May 13, 1954, will end on Dec. 31, 2019,” said the Lale Plak's Twitter account last week, saddening its longtime customers as well as musicians and music lovers everywhere.
“Through Lale Plak, we've touched the souls of thousands of our friends with quality music for 65 years,” it added.
Located in the city's teeming Beyoğlu district, the 35 square-meter (4,020-foot) store is credited with providing top-notch vinyl records and CDs to its customers.
All the albums on offer were being meticulously selected by Hakan Atala, 58, the store owner, who boasts a profound knowledge of music, particularly jazz and classical.
“I was trying to stock and sell different albums compared to other stores. I did all this with love,” Atala told Anadolu Agency.
“When a new record comes in, we never put it on the shelf without listening first," he added.
Atala took over the historic place from his father and uncle at the end of the '80s, when his father got old and his uncle died.
Over time, the store stocking distinctive albums became a stomping ground for musicians. “Prominent musicians from abroad were also visiting here,” said Atala.
Marcus Miller, an American jazz composer, producer, and bass guitarist, was among those who visited the store.
During a 2003 concert in Istanbul, Miller wore a Lale Plak T-shirt that Atala gave him as a present during his visit.
“He played all night with that T-shirt on and he made me so happy,” Atala said.
After eight years, in 2011, Miller came to Istanbul for a concert, again wearing the same T-shirt, he added.
Not just musicians, but people interested in music from various jobs and walks of life, including politicians, dropped in. Gjorge Ivanov, the former president of North Macedonia, was among them.
Recalling the visit, Atala said: “In 2016, police officers came to the store. They told me that someone would be coming but I still didn't realize.”
A few days later, the then-North Macedonian leader unexpectedly dropped in with a crowded team with tight security measures.
“He's a fan of vinyl records and [American jazz legend] Chet Baker. Back then I had all the Chet Bakers ... There was a very good atmosphere. That's also one of those memories I can't forget," Atala said.
Kerem Görsev, one of Turkey's leading jazz pianists, has also been coming to Lale Plak to buy albums since the early '90s, before the release of his first album Hands & Lips in 1994.
“I have thousands of CDs in my house. Around 25-30 percent of them are well-chosen jazz CDs that I bought from Hakan," Görsev said.
'Meeting point' for musicians
Describing Lale Plak as a “meeting point” for musicians, including ones from abroad, Görsev said: “Those who come to Turkey come by Hakan's. Many international stars came here and bought vinyl records.”
Carefully chosen albums are sold here, the pianist added.
Yavuz İrtem, 57, a music lover who works in information technology, echoed those views.
“I met a lot of musicians here that I know and don't know."
Saying that he has been a customer for at least 30 years, İrtem said, "It's a great sadness for me to be here today."
Highlighting the importance of the store for his life, he said, “This is a hub that people certainly come to when they can't find what they're looking for.”
Naim Dilmener, a Turkish music critic, radio programmer, and writer, agrees.
“Lale Plak was one of those places where collectors like me come to listen to good music, and we certainly find what we're looking for.”
It was a place where you could come across many people from every profession, have a chance to chat with them, and exchange views, Dilmener said.
“For this reason, it's a special place for me,” he asserted.
The store will be closing due to private and family reasons, according to Atala. The upheaval in the music business is another factor behind the decision, he said.
Saying the historic store is just like his “child,” he added: “Over the last week the store has seen dramatic scenes. It's become like a place of condolences."
But musicians, music lovers, and friends of Atala are holding out hope to see Lale Plak in a new home someday.
“This place is temporarily unavailable,” Görsev said, but added that there is no need to be sad.
“I hope this separation will be short lived,” said Irtem, who said most of his personal album collection was bought there.
“It will again offer service to both Turkey and the world with a great collection and from a better place," Görsev added.