Why Are Anglo Businesses Closing in Kreuzberg?
Hudson’s, the English cake shop we blogged soon after its opening, closed its doors on Sunday. It’s the third English-speaking hangout to go in a matter of months in Kreuzberg’s Graefekiez. Dialogue Books, also on Schoenleinstraße, closed its storefront in May and went online. The bistro run by Brooklynites, Little Otik, around the block on Graefestraße, closed the same month, its owners returning to the US to do business there.
None of these anglo-establishments seem to have closed for financial reasons. They were all popular. In fact, Hudson’s apparently enjoyed a record day the Saturday before it closed. So why are these anglos packing up and fleeing?
I talked to one of the owners of one of the above-mentioned establishments, and was told that ‘everyone got a little bored’.
Bored? But what about my bloody scones?
Now, seriously… I’m not sure if the following assessment goes for all of these businesses, but in general they were run by talented people who had come from busy lives elsewhere moving to Berlin to live differently. Certainly Hudson’s, for one, was almost too much of a success. From my observations, what started as a simple cake-baking operation morphed into a very demanding institution. It was adored by anglos from all over the city, aching for a little blood-clotting beans and bacon at breakfasttime, and we created a hell of a lot of work for an early Sunday morning. The operation wasn’t exactly what you can call ‘slowing down’. Those heroes at Hudson’s need a well-deserved holiday. I will suffer a painful withdrawal from lemon drizzle cake soothed only by the knowledge they are on some Aegean island somewhere downing ouzo. Really.
Dialogue Books went with the times: online, and to develop their literary agency. Their selection of books was impeccable––klein aber fein––but they too were not destined to remain long at street level. I think they also got a little tired of being the go-to point for lost/new anglo-artist arrivals to the city––’I just love that in Berlin you can do just nothing‘–– looking for used copies of Naked Lunch.
Little Otik vanished before my eyes. I passed by one day and it had simply dissapeared. I wish those cute guys well.
All of this cannot help you but wonder––allow me a little speculation––at how transient our Berlin life might be, and why we first came here to pursue working lives. Berlin for many working anglos––used to the pressure centres of London and New York––was a refuge, the ‘escape hatch’ from mass capitalism. It allowed for a greater work/life balance, which the Germans so prize (it still is better here, but where is it going?). Is it that Berlin is quickly catching up with London and New York that these anglo businesses have suddenly left? Why be working here, if there is here? Or were they influenced just by circumstance and private reasoning? Or an inevitable adjustment of dreams?
3 thoughts on “Why Are Anglo Businesses Closing in Kreuzberg?”
Dialogue on their blog blame economic reasons. Even if well attended I suspect it’s hard to make an above subsistence living with this type of business, given the competition.
The ones in PB seem to survive so far though, I’ve only noticed marginal places (wrong place, no particularly interesting concept) close down.
Thanks Prenzelberger for your note and for a good rebuttal to our claim that none of the businesses above closed for financial reasons. My impression (and one would have to ask the people at Dialogue for the full story) is that they closed at storefront (as bookstores everywhere are doing) because there were more opportunities online. I know that both Hudson’s and Little Otik, however, were doing very well before they closed––so I don’t think either place can be called marginal or described as having the wrong concept. Although in those two cases it seems like there were plenty of personal reasons they closed (but this falls into the category of gossip, it’s not appropriate to expand). Here’s the quote you mention from the Dialogue Books blog: (http://www.dialoguebooks.org/blog/)
“Maintaining such a specialist non-commercial selection in today’s climate is simply too difficult when working with the distribution system that the industry insists upon. We have realised that if we sell one book or one hundred books each day, the situation is the same: margins are too tight and payment dates too short. Independent bookshops must abide by the same rules as the big high-street chains but with far smaller margins. The situation is not supportive of the bookshop I created, and that many of you love. In this we are not alone, with hundreds of bookshops closing each year. I question how readers will in future find the books we have treasured together, especially those in translation or from quirky, inspirational small presses… but enough of the politics.”
I was also a regular at Hudson’s and Little Otik until they abruptly closed, to my great sadness. Last time I talked to Jeffrey at Little Otik, a couple months before closing, he let off some steam about how hard it was to find reliable hard-working staff, and how he and his partner had to consistently bear the brunt of the labour on their own. I think that for so many expats, the Berlin they moved here for is a place for leisure and playing harder than one works, an “escape hatch,” as you called it. I can imagine that busting your ass for your business’s sake in an environment like this can eventually start to feel a little incongruous.
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