WHAT WE LOVE: An Istanbul café that looks more like a speakeasy from 1920s New York, Petra serves premium locally roasted coffee, divine homemade pastries and a devoted crowd of Istanbul’s coolest locals.
WHO: Kaan Bergsen amassed his deep coffee knowledge at Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn and returned to Istanbul to put his education and passion into practice.
WHERE: The Topağacı neighborhood of Istanbul.
What year was Petra Topağacı established? We opened the Topağacı coffee bar of Petra Roasting Co in June, 2015.
How would you describe Petra? Petra Topağacı is a coffee shop but it doesn’t have the visual cues of a modern coffeeshop. It is basically a French/New York style bar but serves delicious freshly roasted premium coffee. We call the shop our neighbourhood cafe because we designed the space so that it targeted people who lived in the area and the design details were created so it looked like a cafe that was already there before it opened its doors.
Why did you chose the name Petra? Like I mentioned this specific Petra coffeeshop is called the neighborhood cafe. For that we wanted the name of the neighborhood to stand out more than our brand. Thus the design of the shop sign was “Topağacı” (the name of the neighbourhood) instead of Petra.
Who designed the shop? We design all our shops inhouse.
What are you famous for? We serve sourdough tartines and coffee. So it’s well known for both. But a standout would be the “noisette” which we only serve in this shop. It’s basically a double espresso and as much milk to fill an pastis glass.
What are the “must have items” in your shop? Make sure to try the tartine of the day. Steamed eggs are amazing and definitely try the noisette!
Where are your products made? At Petra we don’t sell anything that we don’t manufacture ourselves. Coffee is roasted by us at our roasters and the baked goods are from Mitte Brot, which is our sister company.
What makes your shop unique? This bar is unique in the sense that it is very old fashioned in terms of its design elements, but it does embrace change. Anytime you go, you will notice small changes which makes the experience worthwhile and if you’re going there daily then the routine never gets old.
Who are your customers? People who live close by. Which was the target market all along. We didn’t want people traveling from afar to see a Topağacı cafe, we wanted the locals to enjoy a good cup of coffee.
How has the internet impacted your business? I wouldn’t say it did much for this space. It is everything that our Roastery offers but boiled down and fancied up. We try not to advertise directly when it comes to our brand and Topağacı is the diamond in the rough when it comes to discovering special places.
Who inspires you? My family.
What inspires you? History.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I….was a student.
What motivated you to open a shop? My love for beverages and tastes.
Did you have prior retail experience? Nope.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? The ability to say “no”.
Your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Mornings.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Definitely write a business plan. Projecting and assessing where you land at the end is the only way to process experience.
What is your perfect day off in… I don’t get that many days off, but when I do I like to stay at home as much as I can and tend to my plants, redecorate, play with my dog etc. I also try to be as close to the Bosphorus as I can and mostly eat an early dinner at Kıyı Yeniköy, which is an amazing fish restaurant that has stood the test of time. But no matter what I do I try to go to Petra on my off days as well; not to work but to try to feel like a customer at my own place. It definitely gives me perspective.
Five top social media tips? Be sincere, to the point, different, and definitely educational.
I wish I could… figure out how to clone my current teammates!
On the Future of Retail
“There is no doubt that technology will affect how we shop. But all the technological advancements are there to shorten the time and distance between me and the product I want/or would like to purchase. It makes it easier to pick, pay and receive the goods. But for clerks like us, we know there is so much more we can offer other than ‘easy.’
So, it just comes down to this: sometimes the customer wants to merely get from a to b (and getting to b is all that matters) and sometimes the journey is more important. For the customer that wants to experience the journey, businesses like ours are there to help, and there is certainly demand for the human touch.”
Teşvikiye Mh. Prf. Dr. Orhan Ersek Sk. 18/7, Şişli
Photography by Ece Somay
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth is a Berlin-based freelance writer and the author of The 500 Hidden Secrets of Istanbul. Her favorite shops are Souq Dükkan in Istanbul for the best of local design, Ryoko in Berlin for artisan Japanese goods, and Homemade Aromaterapi in Istanbul for 100% natural beauty products.