In nineteenth-century İstanbul, the Anatolian town of Çankırı was famous for its candymakers. People who migrated to the capital city from that arid region would presumably follow the example of their fellow townsmen who had settled in İstanbul earlier, and go into the same profession. İsmail Hakkı Bey had come from the town of Orta in Çankırı, and although he was a money-changer by profession, he too found himself among the candy-makers of Hamidiye Avenue in İstanbul’s neighborhood of Bahçekapı, district of Eminönü. He began to make rock candy in 1864 in the basement of the building where he had settled. With the help of his sons, he created an ever-increasing number of sweets on which people soon got hooked; it was also İsmail Hakkı Bey who introduced the popular pastry known as poğaça to İstanbul-dwellers. Among his sons, Mustafa divided his time between helping his father and working as a caller-to-prayer at the Mosque of Arpacılar. While the firm’s ownership has changed several times since, its century-old tradition of, as well as the location of that first candy store and the taste it left in one’s mouth, have remained entirely unchanged.
Eminönü is one of İstanbul’s commercial centers, and the store soon made its appearance in respectable trade publications. For example, the Annuaire Oriental reported in 1888 that the candy-maker İsmail Hakkı was active at No. 4 in Bahçekapı; his neighbors were tailors and a clockmaker. A year later, İsmail Hakkı Bey’s name was listed among the candy-makers at both that address and No. 72, Alaca Hamam Avenue. In 1891, the candy store had apparently switched places with its neighbor the tailor, and moved to No. 3 in Bahçekapı. At the beginning of 1902, Hacı Mustafa and Hacı İsmail were both listed, separately, as candy store owners in Bahçekapı.
These two shops continued to operate until 1921, after which a new brand name made its appearance: “Hacı İsmail Zade Hafız Mustafa” (Hafız Mustafa, son of Hacı İsmail). In 1924, Hafız Mustafa opened another shop in Yerebatan, this one to sell savory turnovers known as börek. This was soon followed by another candy store: named İsmail Hakkı, it was established at Dudu Odaları Street in Beyoğlu (Pera). Hafız Mustafa was not the only one to inherit the profession of candymaker from İsmail Hakkı Bey. His other son Ömer Lütfi had also dedicated himself to the trade, just like his brother. It is clear, however, that the two brothers chose different paths for themselves, as they took different surnames when the Surname Act was adopted in 1934: Hafız Mustafa chose Kandman, while Ömer Lütfi chose Cebeci. In any case, the name Hafız Mustafa had by then risen in prominence; it also rarely appeared (as in a 1930 yearbook) as “Hafız Mustafa & Sons.”
The firm Hafız Mustafa won eleven awards at international fairs between 1926 and 1938. The Office of Foreign Trade, a new body established by the young Republic, took out newspaper ads in 1932 to thank those companies that had participated in the Bari Orient Fair and received favorable reviews, notably Hafız Mustafa. This was about the time Hafız Mustafa’s son Cemil Bey was becoming more involved in the business, and he decided to go after a more universal taste. By the time newspapers had begun to discuss the importation of cocoa, Hafız Mustafa & Sons had already launched their new brand, Çikolat Cemil (Chocolate Cemil). On the other hand, it was difficult for Çikolat Cemil to overtake Hafız Mustafa, whether as a product or as a brand. Hafız Mustafa was such a “well-known businessman” that even his daughter’s wedding was deemed newsworthy by the papers.
While Cemil Bey emphasized the fact that he was Hafız Mustafa’s successor, he never let go of his father’s name. Thus, the firm’s advertisements during Bayram (Eid al-Fitr, a religious festival), the busiest time for candy-makers in Turkey, invited customers to “Get your Bayram candy from Hafız Mustafa & Son at No. 90, Bahçe Kapı.” The brand also gained fame for tahini and halva, marketed from 1929 on. Advertisements published by Cemil Bey on the occasion of religious festivals featured “Çikolat” as his nickname: “Hafız Mustafa and his Son Çikolat Cemil wish you an auspicious Bayram.”
Cemil Bey died in 1947; newspapers reported memorial services (mevlid) for him and his father during the decade that followed. At the time of his passing, Hafız Mustafa was a well-established firm over eighty years old. It became his widow Vasfiye Hanım’s mission, along with Sönmez Kandman, to lead it into the future. In 1948, the firm’s name and logo were published in the Resmi Sınai Mülkiyet Gazetesi (Official Gazette of Industrial Property) as “Hafız Mustafa’s son Cemil’s successor S. Kandman.” The new proprietoresses initially retained the name “Hafız Mustafa Kandman,” but they eventually began to use the name they had registered. Thus, for instance, an advertisement published in 1950 read as follows:
Şeker Bayramı (Eid al-Fitr) is here.
Those among our esteemed people who wish to eat Bayram candy that is both cheap and delicious [are invited to]
the Candy Store of Hafız Mustafa’s Son Cemil’s Successor S. Kandman
in Bahçekapı, famous for the deliciousness of its products.
If you purchase your Bayram candy from the Yenen pavilion at the exhibition hall, you will have killed two birds with one stone.”
Vasfiye Hanım and Sönmez Hanım were well aware of the significance of owning a business with deep roots, and often emphasized their history in the advertisements published during this period. In 1957, they refered to themselves as “your candy store for 94 years”; in 1963, they invoked their “99 years of experience.” Furthermore, they were not alone advertising the merits of their products during those years. Respected businesses that resold Hafız Mustafa’s products took out advertisements like “Hafız Mustafa candy, 1 kilogram for only 500 kuruş at Migros.” While the firm’s product line expanded considerably, the backbone of their business during the 1960s remained sweets such as almond paste, chocolate, cakes, and candy.
The well-disciplined and much liked proprietoresses of Hafız Mustafa turned over the business to the son of Sönmez Kandman, Mustafa Nihat, when he came of age. This “Reign of Mustafa the Second” lasted until 1993 and ended because Nihat Bey decided to invest in other sectors. Mustafa Altuncu purchased the business and sought to grow its historical legacy without, however, damaging its roots or spirit. After five generations, starting with Hacı İsmail Hakkı, the candy store attempted to establish branches under its new management, until another investor purchased it in 2007: Avni Ongurlar. In her doctoral dissertation, Esra Dil has analyzed Hafız Mustafa as a business enterprise and has shown that, despite several changes of ownership, aspects of the firm that rest upon a century and a half of experience such as its product range, production process, and brand concept —and even, to the extent possible, its staffing— have remained relatively unchanged. Thus, despite changing hands, Hafız Mustafa has retained its brand identity for well over a hundred years.
The current owner of the business, Avni Ongurlar, speaks of Hafız Mustafa and Cemil Bey as if they were members of his own family. Despite his origins in the textile industry, Hacı Avni Bey is in perfect emotional harmony with the firm’s historical roots. He sells the most healthy products at the most reasonable prices, personally meets his customers and sends them off with a smile. While the Bahçekapı store sold 100 poğaça per day in 2007, they now sell 2500; that, and the fact that the store is now listed in Spanish and French tourist guides, are probably due to his smile and respect for tradition.
Among works that discuss Hafız Mustafa, the most interesting is without any doubt Los Secretos de Hafiz Mustafá (The Secrets of Hafız Mustafa) by the Colombian author Francisco Leal Quevedo, who described his book as follows: “This story is inspired by this memorable place whose fame travels further than any frontiers.
With four branches in Taksim, Sultanahmed, Sirkeci, and Bahçekapı, Hafız Mustafa has entered the vocabulary of İstanbul. As an old native once wrote, it is famous not only for its sweets, candy, turnovers, and pastries, but also for its smile…
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