Bringing Istanbul Bling to Berlin

Kottbusser Damm is a street of tiny kebab stands, windows full of simple dresses, and colorful vegetable shops. But the Prens Hotel and jewelry shops stand out. These are the parts of an unlikely tiny Turkish empire in Kreuzkölln.


Tarsus Gürkan, 35, runs one of the family’s three jewelry stores. It’s a small, light and airy business at Kottbusser Damm 102, where gold chains are laid out on white velvet. Each of Gürkan’s three brothers runs the other parts of the Gürkan holdings, including two more shops and a 30-room hotel. Gürkan’s sister works in a Berlin department store.

We don’t come from the fruit and vegetables department

Tarsus Gürkan says his father, Edip, has business in his blood.

“My grandfather traded goods in different villages in Turkey for years,” he says. “We don’t come from the department of fruits and vegetables.”

Edip was an early entrepreneur in Istanbul and opened a goldsmith shop when he was 14. Five years later, he followed relatives to Germany in search of adventure and money. He started off stripping windows, then got hired as a jewelry polisher at a shop in Kruezkölln. When the shop owner retired in 1987, Gürkan bought the business on Kottbusser Damm 101.

Tarsus Gürkan at his jewelry store, holding a picture of his father outside in the 1980s.

Berlin’s Turkish immigrants were eager to buy traditional jewelry, like two-meter chains and arm bracelets, Gürkan says. Germans came soon after, looking for the blue and white amulet against the evil eye.“They put the evil eye on necklaces, bracelets, key chains – on everything,” says Gürkan.

Growing the business

The business grew, expanding to the three stores that stand today in the area. Gürkan says his family got into hotels last year by accident.The landlord at one of the Gürkan shops kept raising the rent. When a neighboring building went for sale, the family bought it.

“We didn’t even think about renovation, we just wanted to have a store where there will never be someone who could throw us out”, Gürkan says.

But the empty building presented a business challenge – what to do with the space? Even though no one in the family had hospitality experience, they decided to create a simple, 30-room three-star hotel, opened in December 2011.

Business has flourished, Gürkan says. “Even people from Berlin itself are coming here. They really like the idea of a family-run hotel.”

Reviewers say the same. A recent guest wrote on TripAdvisor, “Friendly, modern, an excellent value for money.”

The business formula

Gürkan chalks his family’s success up to Turkish family values. Edip oversees all the businesses, and his four sons each run one of the three jewelry shops and the hotel, all within walking distance of each other. “In my family we rely on each other and we are always together,” Gürkan says.

And he says the knowledge of how to make jewelry, passed down from father to son, is the business secret.

A changing neighborhood

The business plan may same the same, but Gürkan says the neighborhood is changing. In the last five years, he says, students and artists have descended on the area, adding diversity to a neighborhood that once only had Turkish and German residents.

“Suddenly every third person on the street speaks English,” says Gürkan. “I like it.”

But even as a jeweler, Gürkan says he worries about rising prices in his neighborhood. If the people who brought the charm to Kreuzkölln, the artists and the young students, can’t afford to live here anymore, we will soon have a pretty boring neighborhood”, says Gürkan.




© 2013-Juwelier Prens| Kottbusser Damm 100| 10967 Berlin