WRJ’s Little Istanbul — Almost There!

It happens regularly now. Someone will come up to Little Istanbul co-owner Jackie Oktay and ask to buy a rug or a handbag or one of the countless Turkish items the store will be selling. And always the answer has been, "Not yet." But now it’s, "Soon."

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“I’m hoping it’s two weeks,” says Oktay, who along with her husband, Vural, also owns the Tuckerbox cafe and restaurant across the street in White River Junction. Jackie Oktay and her mom spent the weekend moving goods out of storage, unpacking them, and stacking them floor to ceiling at the store until some semblance of order descends and they can be laid out. “It was fun,” says Jackie. “Because I hadn’t seen any of it.”

Jackie Oktay holds up the Ottoman-style legs that will hold up tables in the store

And what is “it”? Picture a bazaar. There are bags, wallets, and belts made from old kilims collected from villages around Turkey that, if they’re damaged beyond repair, get turned into remnants that are then repurposed. There are bed runners and table runners, tablecloths, light globes and hand-painted ceramics in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. There are boots made from old carpet, and sneakers covered in the Central Asian fabric known as “suzani.”  There are Turkish towels. There are soaps and shampoos and creams made from olive oil. And eventually, but only after the dust is gone, there’ll be spices, along with carpets and kilims that Vural started collecting on a trip to Turkey this past winter.

Pine planks that will serve as countertops and tabletops

On Tuesday, the store-to-be was still a jumble of planks and construction equipment, as the crew worked to finish up shelving. Today, the cabinets get painted. Track lighting is going in. The central counter, which will house 24 baskets of spices, has yet to be finished. And Vural and Jackie have to sort through the “literally thousands” of hanging Turkish lights they’ve collected, and choose the 50 or so that will hang in the store. 

Outside, the front door was blocked by a sheet of plastic while workmen prepped the forms for a sidewalk-level layer of concrete. Today, the step leading to the interior gets added. And soon enough--though from Jackie's hesitant tone it might not be exactly two weeks--you'll be able to wander in, ask about a rug or a handbag or any of the other items the store will be selling, and Jackie will say, “Sure.”

David Machell takes a break from prepping to lay concrete

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