Nizam entered my shop rubbing his hands wid1 his always-smiling face and far d1inner shape than Master Tevfik. After greeting, he handed me my samovar that he had repaired. When I asked him how much I owe him, he looked at me as if saying “Come onı,” smiled and said “Nothing.” TI1ey caıne to İstanbul in 1967 from Trabzon and to the Grand Bazaar in 1968. We were ralking with Master Nizaın about how they first staıted their business wiiliout going into details. He told me how they collected all kinds of household iteıns d1at were ma de of copper or similar metals, how his brother Tevfil< traveled all through Anatolia, and about ilie nationalities of people whoın d1ey mıded wid1 most… “We used to start working at 6:30 in the ınoming. We were making new samovars. There used to be times when we continued working through the ni.ght, and when we staıted woıki.ng Fıiday and continued to work lınıil Saturday evening. TI1ere was a lot of woık” “Old copper in Turkey should be put to use. It is far better than letting it get processed by other countries. When we said this in the SO’s, it suddenly became a big topic on TV. A few times we appeared in soıne documentaries. If our people buy these products, it will retum to us in the future.” “Old copper used to be more important to the foreigners. Later on, iliey started to buy new ones, too. Sometimes, people call us to d1eir houses. W e buy them any pay theın d1eir due. We fix d1em. We polish the items made of copper and brass, make them glamorous and usable again-” “W e start polishing business wiili one ınachine. It has been ilii.rty seven years since we started this business. Then it expanded. Until two years ago, my broilier was collecting items from different places of Anatolia.” W e were having d1is conversation in the end of November of 2004 and Master Nizam was daydreaming as he talked about the pleasant businesses of old times.
“The business was at its elimax between the years of 1988-1995. We invested more on goods. W e always sold one but bought two. However, for the last two-three years we have been seliing just what we have, we cannot replace them.” “In addition, we are also manufacturing things !ike hunicane lamps and hooded lamps. Recently, in a magazine, we sa w one of our merchandise with our name on it, we were so proud.” “In a magazine in Germany, they published an article about us. One of our German clients saw it and called us. Both he and we were very pleased.” “We are from Trabzon. We also have the pictures of our hometown on the walls of our store. This way, we adveıtise our city. If only everybody did what we do … ” At tlut point, Master Tevfik appeared in a destance. With his huge body he was walking with a swing without any huny. His eyes were big just !ike his nose. His voice was strong. The fact that he was yelling eveıyone in the middle of the inn used to cheer us all. I called him and he came. He joined the conversation. It turned out that he was the real hero of the story. He was the one who opened the first door for the business and his brother followed him later on. This time, Master Tevfik started to teli the story. “I came to Kadıköy in 1966. I worked as a hairdresser for women, busboy, cobbler and a tea-maker. I came to the Bazaar in 1967, first to Cebeci Inn as a burnisher. Then, we moved to Pastırmacı Inn with my master. For ten years, I worked for masters Bahri Kaya and Zeynel MetingüL Back then, Master Zeynel was also working as a model for Saklambaç Magazine. You know, !ike in movies, but, in a magazine. He played soccer at the juniors team of Beşiktaş for years. He was one of the three people who could manufacture a new samovar. He was the oldesr master. There was a Master Mehmet, whose samovar was nam ed “Karandi.” There were also masters Bahri and Zeynel, the name of Master Zeynel’s samovar was “Temler.” I did not quite get the name and asked again:
“No no, Temler.”
Just as I was thinking what “Temler” might possible mean, I realized that he was pronouncing the word as “Temler” because of his authentic Black Sea accent; what he meant was the word “Demler” which meant “Brewer”. “I worked at Yeni Inn for a year, later on we started our business at Cebeci Inn in 1978- 1979. We spent a quarter of a century in a single shop. We had great customers. Ath the time, it was very difficult to make customers, especially ladies, enter this inn. It was very dirty around. Rogues, wolf whistlers … I even got stabbed on ce. One day, tl1ere was a brawl about the dirt and the trashes around, I went there to break it up and got stabbed. The middle of the inn was the garbage dump. Wreckages, dirt, ıubbles were all around the place. This place was full of porters. There were furnishers, before that there were the quilt makers. Later on, bumishers settled in.” “There were also people who lived here, poor people. There was lady. She used to cook for the workers and wash their clothes. Half of the quilt makers used to live in the inn. They were using their shops as if they were bachelor pads. It went on !ike this until 1979-80. When Sarraf Inn, located at the back, was bumed down, this place was also emptied. There used to be cobblers and sponge divers in Sarraf Inn, now it is in ruins.” “In 1981, we got rid of the garbage in the middle of Cebeci Inn. Residents moved out. The shops got cleaned. After 1981, customers began to come with their own will. Before then, they could not come inside. The store owners in the Bazaar were also our clients. Even they used to cal! us, make orders and we would deliver. After all, there were only six or seven phones in total in the whole inn.” As Master Tevfik was talking, I rernembered that state of Cebeci Inn as in the old pictures. The place was such a wreck. He was one of the people who restored this place. When I asked, “Who else was there?”, he enumerated as far as he could remember:
“There was Ali Yörük’s father, who used to seli fabrics and cotton. Hakan Yılmaz was seliing cotton and quilts, he was a wholesaler. Grocer Nihat is among the ones I remember. Hajji Fehmi came either in 1972 or 74, he had a smail tea and coffee shop. There was Avadis, who used to face copper pots, and then he became a goldsmith. Ahmet Acar is also among the old inhabitants of this inn, he was an upholsterer. Master Dilaver was making sofas. Keskinler used to make sofas but then he switched to sponge business. He used to send sponges to Anatolia. Selahattin Benli was in mattress, sponge, pillow business. Almost all of these men became masters from a period of apprenticeship.” Again, I asked him questions about his own business. He started to teli: “I was traveling mostly to Sivas, Sivas-Susehri, Tokat, Kayseri, Erzurum, Elazığ, Samsun, and, of course to Trabzon and Rize. I used to collect old copper and brass items from these places. I have traveled 70% of the places in Turkey. The items I had found were generally manufactured by Armenian masters. I would purchase household items such as pans with lids, pots, skillets, trays, soap dishes … etc” “Soap dishes were most comman in Sivas, Erzurum, Tokat, and Elazığ. And of course, in İstanbul. It is said that girls would never go to bathhouses without them. They would put their perfumes, soaps, and other personal belongings in them.” “Later on, in 1986-87, we started to manufacture samovars. The business continued for two years than it stopped.” “In1985, Master Mehmet joined the team. He left to try to do his own busines, however, after a while he retumed. He plated silver in Pastırmacı Inn. First, he was an apprentice. He started with soldering. Now, the lantems Master Mehmet makes are pretty famous.” “The work that we do mostly is the reparation of old samovars and copper goods. W e always did polishing in addition. In the 90ies we started to manufacture hooded lantems and sconces. W e manufactured brass hangers along with various bam lantems for the market. W e were even able to make exact copies of the old ones. We manufactured alems and chandeliers. No one can distinguish the difference between the old ones and the ones that we have made.” “In 1985s, the numbers of the manufacturers were twenty to twenty fıve. This number is still the same.” “I have trained three apprentices; however, they were not able to be masters. Two of the gave up. The other one continues to do the same job with anather master. There were so many people who dosed down and opened up their business many times. We opened up our shop once and never dosed it down.” “Our customers are generally Germans, French, Americans, and Italiarts. In general, the ones who work here, in İstanbul, come. They bring their guests as well. There are also many others, who come from abroad and place orders, along with the people from big companies. People !ike the representatives of BMW, directors of Carrefour and Metro in addition to the people from different consulates all come here.” “W e have never lied. We told that the thing is old if it was, new if new. We paid our taxes. We never had problems with the state. We borrowed money but always paid back. What did we earn over those years? We · raised our children and provided education for them. I have four children, three of them are married. I eamed their bread here.” “I took part in two documentaries. They were broadcasted on national TV. They showeel how the old copper caıne back to life again in d1e hands of a master. I collectecl ilie metal goocls from eveıy house in eveıy city I have been. I fixecl ilieir holes, crooks, and cracks. I patted, polisbed and showeel affection. Think of a woınan who has just got up from her bed.
While her hair is a mess anel her eyes are swollen and tirecl, putring her ınake up on and bring out her beauty is kind of !ike what we do wid1 old ınetals”. Isn’t Master Tevfik’s bringing those old idle d1ings back to ilie economy a great gain for the countıy? He also does an impoıtant community seıvice by showing his skills in d1is art to foreigners, who will see it as a part of d1is countıy’s culture. “When Çarşılı Inn bumeel down, Cebeci Inn stayed doseel for rwenty nine days. Fehn1i, I and Quilter Zeki went to d1e district goveınor. They said that they doseel it down because of the ıisk of fire. There was a lieutenant at ilie time. It was ilie times of nillitaıy. He doseel it down, but we got it reopened again.” “T11ere used to be a wellıight iliere in ilie n1iclclle. But iliey doseel it. We plantecl the trees here. There used to be only this plane tree there. I don’t know who had planred it.” “My son, Murat, works with us as well but mosdy he works as a salesman in ilie Bazaar. He sells nautical docks and iteıns. Anyone can become a master but not eveıyone can become a salesman. The corıuption began in the way of rı·eating customers. T11e oilier day, I gave a customer a couple clifferent prices but when I saw that the customer was reluctant I did not show any more effort.” It seemed !ike Master Tevfik was feeling a little weaıy but perhaps it was because of his tireclness at me time. He believes iliat leaıning a language and being a salesperson is more difficult than being a master. In adelition to his humbleness, he probably thinks mis way because od1er people sell his product.s for him. Fact, the best salesman is the one who sells his own product.s. Therefore, I disagree with him by saying that ilie best seller is ilie best master. But he said “The old fıiendsl1ips and neighborliness does not exist anymore. Old friends used to help each oilier. They used to send us money wiili one of their own ınan when we needed it. Now, I send my own man to d1em and cannot even receive my own money.”
Tevfik ve Nizam Çolak