emgen
Salih Necati Bey graduated from the Department of Pharmacology of the Imperial School of Medicine in 1906. He opened his first pharmacy that same year in the Koca Mustafa Pasha neighborhood of İstanbul, and then moved to Üsküdar on the Asian side of the city in 1908. Many early twentieth-century photographs show his establishment, “Eczane Salih Necati,” at the foot of Doğancılar Hill; it was an early manifestation of a tradition that would span several generations. Before long, trade directories that listed the principal commercial enterprises of the capital city began to include its name; its address in 1911 was given as Uncular Avenue, Üsküdar.

There was a growing awareness at the time of the importance for Turkey to have a domestic pharmaceutical industry, and Salih Necati Bey soon became much more than a simple retailer of medicines. He first converted part of his pharmacy into an eyewear store, thus starting what would become an area of specialization for himself, his son, and his grandson. But what made Salih Necati a household name were the medical preparations he produced. Over the years, the Üsküdar pharmacy became a laboratory and a manufacturer of medicinal drugs. These were not, furthermore, simple mixtures of powders or liquids; Salih Necati produced modernday pills in what he called his laboratory’s “komprime evi” (tablet house).

By the 1920s, Salih Necati Bey was a well-respected pharmacist, optician, and pharmaceutical manufacturer; it was time for him to move towards Eminönü, İstanbul’s principal business center. He kept his store in Üsküdar and opened another in Bahçekapı in 1921. Given that the commercial yearbook Annuaire Oriental for 1922 still listed his address as No. 7, Uncular Avenue, that location must have remained operational for some time. By law, a licensed pharmacist was not allowed to have more than one pharmacy, so that until 1926, the Salih Necati Eczahanesi (Pharmacy) was officially in Bahçekapı, and the “tablet house” in Üsküdar.

In time, the firm’s product line grew to contain several items known by Salih Necati’s own name. An advertisement published in Türk Eczacı Âlemi in 1927 listed Necati syrup, Necati tooth powder and solution, Necati bath powder, and Turan eau de cologne. Also, “for the little ones,” the firm sold such products as Necati phosphatine, Necati laxative pills, and Necati cough drops. The pharmacy also introduced several new medications including charcoal acidol in 1933, quinine chlorhidrate in 1937, and Aspirol in 1940, as well as producing the painkiller tablets haskalmin from 1935 on. In addition, the firm produced several medicines under license, including baryomin, fevrosin tablets, and wild radish syrup with iodine glycerophosphate. The license obtained from Bayer Pharmaceuticals to produce Necati Aspirol became a symbol of high standards and product quality, and a photograph of the Bayer factory was printed on the tablet boxes.

A change of address took place in 1929, the new location being across the street from the Ertuğrul Store, at No 33-35, Bahçekapı Avenue. In 1934, the pharmacy moved again, this time to a space purchased from the famous confectioners Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, at the corner opposite them. The 1930s were a key period in the development of the Salih Necati brand, as Aspirol Necati became more and more popular as “the definitive cure for influenza, colds, headaches, and toothaches.” In 1937, the firm added Asri hair dyes to their product range. Meanwhile Salih Necati Bey had increased the volume and regularity of newspaper advertisements. The major papers of the 1930s, from Zaman to Cumhuriyet and Akşam, frequently carried advertisements for the Salih Necati pharmacy. Care was taken to advertise eyewear and pharmaceutical products separately.

The year 1934 brought a major change to Salih Necati Bey, as it did to all citizens of Turkey: a surname. In tune with republican ideology, he decided to take a family name in “pure Turkish” and chose “Emgen,” a word that means “healing” and represented well his profession. This name was also chosen by the Turkish Pharmacologists Club and the Pharmacists Club when they merged in 1935. The new society kept this name until 1937, when it changed it to the Union of Pharmacists of Turkey. The Union of Pharmacology Students at the School of Pharmacology also changed its name in 1936, using not one neologism but two: “Emgen İrdemen Birliği.”

The pharmacy continued to be called “Bahçe Kapu Salih Necati Eczahanesi” (the Salih Necati Pharmacy at Bahçekapı) for a while longer, but after its founder’s death in 1948, it became better known by his surname. Although Salih Necati Bey’s son Rahmi Emgen was educated as a pharmacist, he focused on the eyewear business and opened a store on İstiklâl Avenue in Beyoğlu; founded in 1948, it is still in business. The building in which it is currently located, Emgen Apartmanı, was home to the entire family since the 1930s, which is why Salih Necati Bey’s memorial service in January 1949 was held in the neighborhood. The address of the new location, “No, 67 above the Lale cinema,” was often emphasized in the advertisements published in subsequent years. One of the advertisements that appeared in 1949 showed all the characteristics of the tradition passed on from father to son: “At the Emgen Optical Company in Beyoğlu above the Lale cinema, the well-known pharmacist Salih Necati continues to be true to its principle of providing, at low cost, a wide variety of scientific eyeglasses, scientific sunglasses, and watches.” Indeed, some interesting products appeared among the merchandise offered for sale at the store during this period, including not only eyewear and watches but also barometers, thermometers, and hygrometers.

Until the 1950s, Salih Necati Emgen had obtained licenses for eleven medical preparations. Mert Sandalcı, a historian of the Turkish pharmaceutical industry, has described the firm as the first in Turkey to combine the two professions of optician and pharmacist. Rahmi Emgen upheld his father’s innovative traditions and took them further, introducing many novelties into the Turkish market. From the 1950s on, he represented the British American Optical Company, and later also took on the agency of Zeiss. In 1966, he imported equipment from the United States that would allow the more precise adjustment of eyeglass lenses. Another firm that supplied Emgen with lenses during the 1960s was Swarovski, for which Rahmi Bey was a reseller until they quit the business.

Rahmi Emgen was a founding member and president of the “Tüm Gözlükçüler Derneği” (General Opticians’ Association, now “Türkiye Optik ve Optimetrik Meslekler Derneği” or Optical and Optometrical Association of Turkey). He was the first to produce optical glass in Turkey. During the years 1955-1968, he was an instructor in the courses for opticians organized by the Ministry of Health, thus showing his mastery of the field as well as contributing the the education of many professionals. In fact, among opticians, the term “Emgen workmanship” has come to mean near perfection in the cutting and fitting of eyeglass lenses.

The name Rahmi Emgen was also well known and much respected in artistic circles during the 1950s. He contributed significantly to the Dormen Theater, founded in 1957, in recognition of which he was for many years invited to every premiere. Not only the Dormens but also other public figures, from Zeki Müren to Hülya Koçyiğit and from Bülent Ersoy to Hülya Avşar, chose Emgen as their optician.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Emgen Optik established a warm rapport with its clientele through the rather colorful language of its advertisements in which it addressed potential customers as if having a conversation with them: “Do you need eyeglasses?” “Emgen says...” “Are you fastidious in your choice of eyewear?” “Elegant ladies get their eyeglasses at Emgen.” In 1962 and 1968, it warned customers to beware of imitations.

Rahmi Emgen’s son Çetin graduated from the Austrian High School in İstanbul, and then studied business administration in Vienna. With his return to Turkey in 1978, the third generation of the family became part of the firm. Çetin Bey supplemented what he had learned from his father with formal education in optometry and opened a new Emgen Optik store in the neighborhood of Nişantaşı. More than a mere optician, he is heir to a commercial tradition and a legacy of quality, and carries the burden of serving customers accustomed to years of superior service from Emgen. The firm is equally concerned with aesthetics and eyesight. After working at shops in various neighborhoods including Etiler, he has returned to the store in Beyoğlu, a “family heirloom” as he calls it, and is continuing to give personalized service in the finest tradition of the Emgen family.

Contact

Beyoğlu İstiklal Cad. No:47 34433 Beyoğlu - İstanbul / Turkiye
P: +90 (0212) 292 3577
www.emgenoptik.com
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