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Markiz Patisserie and Passage

Photo: Turkishtime
 Untitled Document

The following article was published in January 2004 issue of Turkishtime.

Markiz is just out of the time capsule
Markiz Patisserie, one of the symbols of "Cadde-i Kebir" (The Grand Street) is back after 23 years.

How I yearningly miss the sounds of the clock on the wall that struck the hours reverently. Here, each table was like a small island. Only here you had the privilege to be solitary within a crowd. This room was full of peace. Cleanliness, refinement and smiling faces. Markiz was one of the images that I missed the most when I went away from Istanbul. One has great need for such spiritual shelters…" had written Haldun Taner (Turkish writer and playwright) in his column in the Milliyet newspaper on February 20, 1983. He was one of the regulars of the Markiz Patisserie, sealed off on January 21, 1980. If the Markiz Patisserie can now pick up, be groomed and this nostalgic symbol beyond a patisserie can be revived in the 2000s, Haldun Taner has a major share in it. He had frequented Markiz, used to write there and was an admirer of the service. When it was sold to a an auto spare part supplier, Haldun Taner recounted the significance of Markiz as a cultural heritage time after time, leading a legal battle. Thanks to him, the Higher Council of Monuments took the building under protection. Let's rewind the tape and take a look at the story of Markiz before it became Markiz.

First was Lebon
Instrumental in changing the countenance of 19th century Pera were in fact unfortunate fires. Particularly after the huge fire of 1870, "Grand Rue de Pera" (Cadde-i Kebir) became the stage for works of planned urbanization. As the Western façade of the Ottoman state, new and grand buildings were constructed rapidly on the street, sidewalks were built with an orderly construction plan and the street had its first nighttime lighting. The first café with live music, as well as the first opera, cinema, theater and dry cleaner occupied premises on this very same street.

The Belarusians who had escaped from their countries during the Bolshevik Revolution were the pioneers of a new tradition around Galatasaray: pastry making. In the same surroundings, the Lebon Patisserie opened at Passage Orientale, number 362 by Eduard Lebon- who had settled in Istanbul during the Crimean War. With the scrumptious cakes baked in the special oven brought from Paris and its European atmosphere, Lebon soon became one of the "in" places of the time. This patisserie was the unmistakable meeting place for prominent figures in the world of art, literature and politics such as Namık Kemal, Şinasi, Ziya Paşa, Mehmet Rauf, Tevfik Fikret, Abdülhak Hamit, Ahmet Haşim and Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu. People did not only come here to devour the caramel candy.

The Art Nouveau-style wall coverings at the entrance were made from the patterns of artist J.A.Arnoux. These panels, depicting the four seasons were to become the main inventory of Markiz but the fates of "winter" and "summer" are unknown. Rumor has it that, "winter" was damaged already while being brought to Istanbul and could not be displayed on the wall with the other seasons. As for "summer", it is said to be covered by a mirror. Now, we have to make do with spring and fall…
Markiz auto spare part supplier.

Lebon existed from the end of the 1800s to 1940. It was Avedis Ohanyan Çakır who took over the patisserie from Eduard Lebon, renewed the décor in seven months and opened it under the name Markiz. Çakır came to Istanbul in 1889, first worked at Tokatlıyan Hotel as an accountant but loved hotel administration so much that after a while, he left accountancy and engaged in administration. First, he was busy with a tea garden taken over from the French, then in 1940, as soon as he heard that Lebon had been vacated, he hastened to get it with his wife Mari. Reputably Çakır, who got up early in the morning and was personally involved with his customers until they closed, made good use of the "know how" he acquired from Lebon. Let alone disillusioning the clientele of Lebon, with Markiz, he managed to create a brand which almost surpassed the fame of Lebon. The stained glass coverings added later by Çakır and painted by Mazhar Resmol are regarded to be the emblems of Markiz. When the proprietor filed for a decision of evacuation to turn the place into an auto spare part supplier, it was the end of a story for that period of time. Avedis Ohanyan Çakır died three years later.

At the end of a legal battle of eight to ten years which would last owing to the efforts of the patrons of Markiz, members of the Turkish intelligentsia such as Haldun Taner, in 1977 there was a decision by the Council of Conservation of Cultural and Natural Endowments to preserve Markiz and the 1840 Passage Orientale exactly as they were, which Avedis Ohanyan Çakır unfortunately could not see. From 1980 when it closed its doors to 1993 when it was bought by the Aksoy Group, Passage Orientale was lonely as it never had been. After 1993, there was some laborious work underway for the restoration project which could get approval only by 1997. Because of last-minute holdups, the opening date was postponed several times; eventually on one of the last days of 2003 with a smart red-carpet opening, Markiz was resuscitated. Mustafa Aksoy, the CEO of the Aksoy Group, which invested 6 million dollars in this project, indicates when appropriate that this is actually a cultural investment.

Just out of the time capsule, Markiz takes those who know its past state on a walk down memory lane, while those who only heard of this legend feel the pleasure of wandering in a segment of history to which they do not belong. There are of course those who are discontented; first those who find the effort to re-construct history unnecessary and believe that the restoration did not restore the spirit of the venue, as well as those who are angered by the Passage Orientale to be filled by stores of posh world brands instead of the former Tailor Mulieri, Thread maker Kalagas, Barber Kristcih and Photographer Abdullah. Right, the time capsule is a fantasy and rarely does restoration work satisfy everyone but presumably the issue of the third group is beyond Markiz itself. The bourgeoisie renews itself every day and as said by Haldun Taner, "One has great need for such spiritual shelters…"

What's inside Markiz Passage?
The passage in which there is the Markiz Patisserie has three floors. On the ground floor, are Markiz Patisserie, Passage Cafe, the Doğa Herbal Products store, the champagne and vodka bar Charlotte, the French store L'Occitane selling natural beauty products, the German design brand Koziol, Mont Blanc famous for its pens and accessories, MonMarkiz where there are gifts reflecting the Markiz period and special Swiss-made chocolate, Che Tobacco, A49 Passage, Karmen Passage and Aydın Watches. On the first floor, you'll find Markiz Brasserie, Miss Sixty, shoe store Dunlop, Taboo, Ivy Oxford Sportswear, Mavi Jeans, Vario, Stefanel, Fashionista and Demirel. On the next floor are the Buz Markiz Restaurant and Buz Hol where there will be concerts, parties and special displays in time. On the third floor is Ravelli Exclusive, tailor for custom-made clothes.

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