Photo by Maria Runarsdottir
The main difference between Kotti and Wedding? Well, for starters, Kotti never really sleeps,” Bircan Er readily answers when pressed to compare the neighbourhood he has lived in since he was born with the Kiez where he has been selling flowers since the end of last century. In any case, Ahmet Igde, the founder and previous owner of Blumen Dilek, took matters into his own hands to make sure that at Kotti, one colourful, fragrant oasis would indeed stay wide awake every night. In 2008, he decided that his iconic flower shop at the corner of Adalbertstraße and Oranienstraße would stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Blumen Dilek has sold flowers since 1982, first inside the Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn station, and then, since 1999, at this bustling crossroads. 1999 is also when Er, then a teenager, started working at the shop. Twelve years later Igde, who had immigrated to Germany in the early 1960s as a Gastarbeiter, effectively retired and moved back to Turkey, leaving Er in charge.
But why would one decide to keep a flower shop open through the dead of night in the first place? “To work less of course,” Igde’s successor replies with a playful smile. He pauses to let the irony sink in. “It’s such a massive waste of time and energy to get all the flowers out of the shop every morning, and then back inside every evening. We figured out we might as well never close at all, just to spare us the hassle,” the 37-year-old goes on matter-of-factly.
Er insists his two night-shift salespeople really do sell flowers, say, at 3am on a Tuesday. Blumen Dilek, christened after a popular female Turkish name which means “wish”, caters to a little-known but thriving market for last-minute orders and “emergency situations”. Like one desperate gentleman who needed 100 roses delivered to Spandau immediately, after midnight, “to save his relationship,” Er recalls with a chuckle. “Our drivers don’t work that late, so we had to deliver the bouquets by taxi, costing him a hefty surcharge.”
However, Dilek’s success story of nighttime flower selling is not all moonlight and roses. At the end of last year, after receiving several ominous notices and paying a €200 fine, the shop was forced to comply with Berlin’s strict Sunday trading laws. As a result, the Blumenladen is now open a mere nine hours on Sundays, from 7am to 4pm.
But the worst episode in Blumen Dilek’s history occurred before that. In late 2012 the flower shop made local headlines as it faced eviction, its existence threatened by another Kotti household name, the ever-expanding Hasir restaurant. Its wealthy owners, the Aygün family, had purchased the entire building next to their restaurant and nullified Dilek’s 12-year tenancy agreement. Luckily, Er found a new locale, just across the street, at a safe distance from his slightly overbearing neighbours. The flower shop opened at the new location in February last year, thus winning a three-year battle for its survival.
“ They’re powerful investors who bully the little guys, that’s a shame,” Er says with resignation. “But when I see the Hasir guys on the street, we do say hello. We’re just people after all, and we’re Kotti.”
Originally published in issue #148, April 2016.