People

The Turkish expat: Yasin Müjdeci

THE BOYS OF KOTTI SERIES! It takes a certain kind of character (and yes, apparently some testosterone) to stick it out around Kottbusser Tor. We talked to the bikers, shopkeepers, artists and punks who’ve made the Kiez their own.

Photo by Maria Runarsdottir

Before we can even sit down, Yasin Müjdeci wants to make something clear: no, his parents aren’t behind his and his older brother Kaan’s business ventures. “People think we came here with a lot of money and we opened these places. But that’s not the story: we got a bit of money from friends and everybody helped us to build everything as cheap as possible.” You could see how someone might make that assumption, though. When locals complain about the invasion of Kreuzberg by moneyed tourists and expats, the Ankara-born Müjdecis are Exhibit A. Literally: last year the Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain Museum updated their exhibition on Kotti gentrification to include a photo of Luzia, the café/bar Yasin and Kaan opened on Oranienstraße in 2007. Low-lit, clubby and über-stylish, it attracts a black-clad crowd of young internationals who come to Kottbusser Tor solely to hang out there – as does Voo, the concept store Yasin opened in 2010. Located in an anonymous Hof, also on Oranienstraße, the store sells designer home goods alongside rare garments, jewellery, third-wave coffee and €65 myrrh-scented candles. “We needed a concept store in Kreuzberg,” says Yasin, who’s just returned from Paris Fashion Week. “Nobody from Kreuzberg wants to go shopping in Mitte!”

We ave 50 employees with 22 different nationalities — and we speak English.

Yasin now holds down the fort at both businesses as his brother pursues a career as a filmmaker: Kaan’s Sivas won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2014. Dressed in a casual grey sweatshirt under a long black wool coat, 32-year-old Yasin doesn’t quite fit the image of your typical boutique owner – nor that of a Turkish man living on Kottbusser Tor. The Müjdecis might share a country of origin with the neighbourhood’s community of ex-Gastarbeiter families, but their story is much more in line with the typical expat narrative: both brothers came here to study in their early twenties, fell in love with the city and stayed. “My business is not Turkish. It doesn’t belong to a specific nation, gender or culture. I cannot say I am Turkish. Here many Turks are really scared of losing their identity and becoming German. They have to show, ‘I’m a man! I’m Turkish!’ That’s not my issue.” Yasin, who speaks flawless German with only a light accent, says Kreuzberg’s internationality is what keeps him in Berlin and drives his business. “Between Luzia and Voo Store, we have 50 employees with 22 different nationalities – and we speak English. My ideal customer is a Kreuzberger who is… not from Berlin, no, but people who come from somewhere else and think, ‘Wow, this city is interesting!’ and then stay here. Or someone from Stuttgart who hates Stuttgart and comes to Berlin, meets all the international people and works at a start up. That’s my client,” he says.