by Zeynep Cermen
ISTANBUL, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Coco Bean in Turkey's largest city Istanbul was once a 3rd generation coffee house overflowing with stylish young people where baristas were inventing new flavors, serving all types of coffee cocktails with new brewing and roasting styles.
It has a totally different atmosphere now. Linen sets, blankets, pillows, runners, and duvets are piled over tabletops and bar chairs. Some tablecloths of various colors are thrown over the coffee jars.
Due to the financial challenges fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mete Caner Talay, the owner of Coco Bean in the liveliest district of Besiktas has recently transformed the location into a store where customers can find all types of affordable textile products.
"Our coffee sales had fallen by 90 percent due to the recent COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions," he told Xinhua in the store while trying to meet the demands of his clients who were constantly asking questions about the items they liked.
"All we could do was to sell two to three cups of coffee in a day," Talay spoke about his previous financial losses. "I had to find a solution urgently, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to pay the rent of the shop and the wages of my employees."
Following a series of brainstorm sessions with his staff, he decided to buy some textile products from a manufacturer and sell them in the coffee house at an affordable price, with a low-profit margin.
"This morning, we sold 40 pieces in just two hours," Talay said.
However, despite the abundant sales, he had to fire 15 of his employees in recent months. "Now we have six people, including my favorite baristas and waiters, and we are all serving as countermen," he said.
In Talay's view, women, in general, are fond of textile products in Turkey and they do not hesitate to spend money. "In that sense, we are lucky. The shop is always busy. But of course, we pay attention to the social distancing rule, and do not allow more than 10 people to be inside at the same time."
The textile business is something he does not understand. Talay said that he is considering going back to the coffee business as soon as the pandemic is over.
"I opened this place in 2018 by following the trend of new generation coffee shops in the area, and until the pandemic erupted in mid-March in Turkey, it used to be full of young people," he said. "Therefore, I want to reunite my staff and do the job we always love."
One of Coco Bean's waiters is now responsible for money transactions and answering the requests of the customers.
"Of course, it is not the same as what I did before. I am not serving coffee anymore," Mustafa Caner said, adding that he is very happy to still have a job under these "abnormal" conditions created by the pandemic.
In mid-November, Turkey reimposed partial lockdowns at weekends, closed restaurants and cafes, and introduced new working hours for the businesses to control the increasing COVID-19 cases.
Last week, the government expanded the scope of the restrictions and introduced a full curfew at weekends and night-time on weekdays.