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A pandemic project from the Grand Bazaar shopkeeper: Iznik Calling

Yazar Oğulcan Tatar

We conversed about the state of the historic Grand Bazaar during the pandemic and after with Ismail Aksahin, who runs Iznik Works, situated on one of the liveliest streets of the bazaar; The Takkeciler Street. We got informed about their brand new project Iznik Calling. World-famous stars and important businessmen might be among the customers of Iznik Works, but Turkish decoration enthusiasts, especially those of porcelain, ceramic and carpet, also frequent it for their shopping.

İznik Calling Grand Bazaar

Ismail, could you report on the Grand Bazaar during the pandemic?

We knew that the cultural and economic activities here would slow down, and even grind to a halt, when we found out that the pandemic had reached Turkey. So we decided to shut shops 10 days before the bazaar was officially closed. We only came to the Grand Bazaar to do the organization necessary for our shops, allowed within the entry and exit permit given to shop owners of the bazaar. It made us deeply sad to see the bazaar in that unfamiliar quiet state. It opened up its doors to visitors on the 1st of June after closing them on the 23rd of March. We respect all hygiene rules since that day. Our masks are always on, and we even check on each other for masks by entering shops. While our bazaar is open, we still have the quietness as less people are able to come from outside the country. In such a period, we have started the project “Iznik Calling”.

What is Iznik Calling?

As a result of the fame of our products as well as the conversation we have here, we developed a strong bond with our clients over the years that we have been running. We were saddened by our separation from our friends who would come here from around the world and have tea, as well as their close friends who they had recommended. With this in mind; we started to carry our conversation and the hospitality culture of our bazaar onto the internet, and meet our guests on online platforms. We get face to face through applications such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Zoom or Facetime after setting up a time. While it is a different experience to sit at the shop and get to know each other through chatting; we have the opportunity to show our bazaar, our products and ourselves to our foreign friends who live overseas and do not have the chance to come and experience it. It has been an inspiration to us that museums have started online visits during the pandemic. Our guests always say it; our bazaar, our street and our shop are like a museum. The culture, habits and memories here make up a lovely time of reminiscence with their loved ones after going back home.

Who visits you?

There are world-famous stars and important businessmen amongst my guests, clients, and friends. Some come here without the knowledge of the press and leave after shopping and conversing. So I cannot share these names, but among the people who came here, shared pictures and showed themselves here in the last year are Eliana with 26 million followers on Instagram, who is the presenter of a famous Brazilian TV show; Antonio Lucio who is the CMO of Facebook; Denin Wenig who is the CEO of Ebay; Carolyn Everson who is the Vice President of Global Marketing for Facebook; Dalia Grybauskaite who was the president of Lithuania. I can say that these names visited only in the last year.

İznik Calling Grand Bazaar

Could you inform us on the Facebook and Iznik Works activities?

I want to start my answer with “We were in a pond before Facebook; now we are in an ocean”. I have said this before and will continue to say it. While our bazaar is visited by thousands in a day, it has made us much more famous to have the word spread on a social platform such as Facebook through people and pages. Being a small business by Turkey’s standards 12 years ago, we are more known in other countries now, with the help of Facebook. I can even send items to customers from my own country thanks to Facebook. In addition to Facebook, we have achieved new markets through Instagram in the past few years.

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