Turkish Roots of a Brooklyn Coffee Bar

This month, Murat Uyaroglu opened the fifth location of his coffee bar and café chain, Hungry Ghost (Photos courtesy of Hungry Ghost, via the Bridge)

Turkish-born entrepreneur Murat Uyaroglu is making a name for his Hungry Ghost coffee bar and café chain, with four locations within a mile-long stretch in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, another in Manhattan and three more on the way. Is he expanding too fast? Uyaroglu doesn’t think so, saying his coffee spots are building a strong customer base because of the consistency of the product.

Michael Stahl, writing in The Bridge, notes that the Turkish immigrant early on decided to focus on brewing and serving, rather than roasting, and sources his coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Then, too, there’s a matter of the atmosphere he is selling.

While many customers may grab-and-go, Uyaroglu designed his shops as places for people to linger, which he attributes to his Turkish roots. “You go to a café [there], you relax, see what’s going on, drink, talk, meet–and that was the idea,” says Uyaroglu, a native of Istanbul.

The Bridge tells how Uyaroglu got his start.

At age 12, still living in Turkey, he worked at his father’s electronics store and later at a tool manufacturer run by his father’s cousin. Though he joyfully just worked the cash registers and boxed products, Uyaroglu says he learned some of his most important business lessons during those formative years, including how to negotiate, he says, and “dealing with people, day to day, understanding how people react to certain conversations, and where you want to set your limits, without pissing people off,” he says.

While in college in Turkey, he opened up an internet café, which he sold six months later at a handsome profit, he says. The next year, Uyaroglu relocated to Washington, D.C., to learn English and study business. There he met his future wife, a writer from Minnesota, and quickly lost all desire to return to Turkey.

The pair married three years later, and eventually moved to Prospect Heights. When he saw an opportunity in 2006 to take over the business of a nearby coffee shop on Sterling Place called Prospect Perk, Uyaroglu borrowed some money from his father-in-law and went about fixing up the place, including its coffee.

Go to The Bridge to learn the ways in which the Turkish entrepreneur says coffee “is being treated like wine.” And learn how Uyaroglu selected the moniker for his coffee shop.

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