WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE?
“It’s going to be a boutique hotel.”
“I heard it was going to be a private hospital.”
“They say they’re going to open an McDonald’s.”
This was the word on the street in the Spring of 2013 when a historic building on the main drag in Avanos was demolished. I bought into the boutique hotel theory myself.
A McDonald’s? In Avanos? Yeah, right.
Can you imagine a Hard Rock Cafe in Steele, North Dakota? A Cheesecake Factory in Stillwater, Oklahoma?* I don’t think so.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am as much a fan of globalization as the next guy. I enjoy Pizza Hut in Ankara. I am glad I can get a Snickers at my neighborhood market. And no, I’m sorry to say, Turk-Cola does not compare to Coca-Cola.
But when it comes to a McDonald’s in Avanos…well, that’s just plain wrong.
There is a McDonald’s in the mall in the big city of Kayseri an hour away if you need a Quarter-Pounder fix. Our little town of Avanos, with its 12,000 people, feasts on pide, lahmacun, and chicken skewers. And that’s the way it ought to be!
MCDONALD’S IN AVANOS!
Or so I thought until McDonald’s opened its doors in Avanos on October 12th, 2013.
Kudos to the owners for making a McDonald’s that actually looks like it belongs in Avanos. The building they erected is made from local yellow-stone and has eye-catching exterior Ottoman decorations and motif. Inside they have incorporated the arch architecture common to so many of the cave hotels and pansions in the area. But then they went away from the historic with their interior design. You feel like you’re sitting in a Starbuck’s rather than a McDonald’s with colorful leather seats and modern custom woodwork accents covering three floors, one of which is underground (very appropriate!). Add to that the beautifully landscaped outdoor patio overlooking the river and I say, “Who needs pide and chicken skewers? Bring on the Big Mac!”
We were there for opening night and fortunate enough to meet the owner, Cavit Vergiveren. I sheepishly told him about how I wanted to preserve the purity of Avanos and didn’t want it defiled with an American conglomerate, blah, blah, blah. Then I thanked them for having the vision to bring such a beautiful place to Avanos. They asked me how this one compared to the ones in America, and I could honestly tell them, “I have never seen a McDonald’s like this in America, there aren’t any.”
It was a long process for them to get this franchise here so I sat down with the owner’s son, Osman Vergiveren, and got the story.
Osman’s father, Cavit, moved to Germany when he was six. His father was part of the large migration of Turks to Germany in the 60’s and 70’s looking for work. Cavit’s father found a job as a factory worker with the pharmaceutical company Bayer. So Cavit experienced globalization firsthand. He was eating McDonald’s as a kid when there wasn’t a McDonald’s in all of Turkey.
Cavit returned to Turkey when he was 24 years old and settled in Nevşehir with his family. Nevşehir is the capital city of the region we call Cappadocia. While Cappadocia is a great place to visit with much to offer the tourist, Nevşehir leaves a lot to be desired.
With both his experience in Germany and his love for his Turkish home, Cavit had a vision for a more lively Nevşehir. In 2010 he thought about being the first to open a McDonald’s in Nevşehir.
Interestingly enough, according to Osman, McDonald’s doesn’t open stores in cities with less than 150,000 people. Nevşehir is a little more than half that big! So there was no way the Golden Arches were coming to town. If you were like me you would have put the idea on a shelf after hearing that news.
But the Vergiveren family didn’t give up and they began looking for another place in the area more suitable than Nevşehir. They looked at Avanos and McDonald’s officials agreed that the riverfront and the 2.5 million yearly tourists provided both the location and potential clientele to make for a prosperous restaurant. The family was able to buy a dilapidated guest house dating back to 1853 right on the river in the center of town!
Let’s start building, right? Wrong. More struggles came after purchasing the property. Many of the buildings in Avanos have been designated historical landmarks. As such they must be developed according to strict guidelines under government supervision. The government and McDonald’s both said the guest house was impossible to restore. At this point my enthusiasm for this project would have wained.
The Vergiveren family persevered. Even though they would have to demolish the building and start from scratch, Cavit would not give up on his vision. A very risky vision by the way, considering this restaurant is the ONLY McDonald’s in Turkey outside of a major city. Finally with a property, McDonald’s corporate and government approval, they broke ground in May 2013.
Three years after incredible amounts of time and financial investment, the Vergiveren family saw their dream come true. And for those of you who want a bit of home while you are overseas you may see this McDonald’s as a dream come true as well!
Osman has graciously offered to treat you to coffee or tea if you visit him and mention that you read about him at CaptivatingCappadocia.com
This Ürgüp family is happy to get their McDonald’s French fry fix in Avanos.
*.My apologies to those of you not from America who neither know what a Hard Rock Cafe or Cheesecake Factory is nor could care less.
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