« | Home | »

At Robinson Crusoe 389

Tags: |

rb-1 At the tail end of Istanbul’s İstiklâl Caddesi (Independence Street) in Beyoğlu, there’s a shop called Robinson Crusoe 389. It’s one of the last remaining bookshops on Istanbul’s busiest shopping street, a castaway among the big brand retailers, coffee shops and waffle places. Designed by Han Tümertekin, it opened its doors at 389 İstiklâl in 1994, selling an impressive range of Turkish and English books. The street has been renumbered since then – the bookshop’s address is now 195 İstiklâl – but the number 389 still appears above the door and on the shop’s bags.

Last week the owners announced they were on the verge of bankruptcy. I used to go there all the time, but as I mostly buy ebooks these days I immediately felt responsible for their misfortune. It turns out, though, that the main reason for Robinson Crusoe 389’s problems is soaring property prices: their rent is now 30,000 lira (nearly £10,000) a month.

Beyoğlu was once considered the centre of Istanbul’s cultural life, full of bookshops, cinemas and Turkish fashion houses. People would shop at Vakko (now a Mango store, the second busiest in the world) before going for tea at Markiz patisserie, rather than Caffè Nero. According to my grandmother, you couldn’t go to Beyoğlu in the 1950s and 1960s if you weren’t properly dressed, meaning that the poor and conservatives weren’t welcome. But if there’s a more democratic mix of people on the streets of Beyoğlu now, the same can’t be said of the businesses there. Small, independent places like Robinson Crusoe 389 are struggling.

To raise urgently needed funds, the shop has introduced a prepaid loyalty card scheme (known as RobKart) with the slogan: ‘Pay now, buy later.’ Whether it will be enough to keep the shop afloat remains to be seen.

Comments on “At Robinson Crusoe 389”

  1. bluecat says:

    What a shame! I remember that Robinson Crusoe 389 as a highlight of visiting Istanbul from the UAE about 11 years ago. How nice it was to be in a city with cafes that were not chains and with proper intelligent book shops!

  2. eduardo abranches says:

    I visited the bookstore in 2008, a great place – fabulous art books and magazines – you didn’t think you were in Istanbul, it felt much like NYC
    (including surly attendants…) – their sophisticated books and Turkish art mags were difficult to find elsewhere. I’m reminded of when Brentano’s in NYC also closed – very special bookstores these two…

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • editor@dailydetox.org on Pinter’s ‘American Football’: Not only does it seem to say something that may not have seemed at the time you read it on Tavistock Square all those years ago, but it also seems to ...
    • IPFreely on He won, won, won: I thought that the malarkey would come to an end once the oath was taken, but no, Trump and his sidekick are claiming that the crowd at the inaugurati...
    • Delaide on Inauguration Day: I know it's not cool to praise Obama, or HRC for that matter. But in the context of what's possible in American politics, I think he did a remarkable ...
    • trumpaverse on The Nightmare Begins: It's not an incipient nightmare anymore: it has arrived. I did much searching this sad evening to locate something online to help me deal with my an...
    • suetonius on He won, won, won: You know what's funny? In Trump's description of the Twilight Zone episode, the guy dies in an accident. Actually, he's shot by the police. I find ...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement