Mikail Uyanik, Jody Uyanik
<b>Short bio: </b>
Jody and I have lived and worked in Alexandria for more than 10 years. I am from Istanbul, Turkey and have a background in business and sales. Jody is an international business consultant and trainer, who first came to the D.C. area to obtain her graduate degree at Georgetown University.
<b>Why did you choose this particular business? </b>
Bizim Collection provides high quality, distinctive items made by master crafts people in Turkey. The company started out with handbags and shoes made from wool and leather, and has evolved over time to include various product lines: hand-painted decorative ceramics, Ottoman-style lamps, furniture, jewelry, oriental rugs and other home accessories. Jody, who travels extensively and works mostly with artisan entrepreneurs worldwide, was impressed by the quality of Turkish crafts. This gave me the idea of where to focus, as I had always wanted to start my own business. I am proud to bring the best of Turkish crafts and culture to Alexandria residents and visitors.
<b>Why did you choose to work for yourself? </b>
I had reached the top of my career path in sales, and was looking for a new option that would give me more of a challenge. Even though I have considerable experience, I didn't know about the specifics of owning a business in Virginia. I had a lot to learn. Starting a business together with Jody was a logical way to apply our combined skills and experience. We make a good team, as she knows more about the administrative and back office matters, and my strength is sales and customer service.
<b>Share an anecdote. </b>
Alexandria residents and visitors tend to be well traveled and well versed in all things international. Still, we are struck by how many people have some sort of connection to Turkey. Many have either visited or lived in Turkey, and have wonderful stories to tell. Just the other day, one family came in the store: parents with three young children. They had lived in Turkey for some time and were ecstatic to find a store in Old Town that offered a wide selection of products and brought back warm memories. They shared the Turkish tea that we serve to customers, and reminisced while the kids rolled around on the carpets. The next day they came back — they had baked chocolate chip cookies for us! It was their way of expressing their joy for partaking in shared traditions.
<b>What are the advantages/disadvantages of operating in Alexandria? </b>
We really enjoy being in our section of King Street, as it has an international flair, and the shops are not typical chain stores. Alexandria is a draw for both locals as well as visitors, and it is steeped in history and tradition. This ambiance fits well with our own products, which are traditional and distinctive. Still, some local residents are still "discovering" us after two years. We encourage everyone in the area to get out and explore, especially the middle and upper ends of King Street. It is an exciting place to be.
For the last two years, we have participated in Alexandria First Night, hosting musicians and serving refreshments. This is an especially enjoyable time for everyone and gives us a chance to be an active part of the Alexandria community.
Haluk is more than a store manager. He is skilled at restoring, repairing and cleaning oriental carpets. He learned these skills from his grandfather in Turkey, and is the fourth generation in his family to carry on this tradition. He has been in the area for about 10 years, and also has taught college classes on tribal arts techniques.
<b>Description of products/services</b>
Products: Turkish carpets and rugs, bedspreads, tablecloths, table runners, throws, pillow covers; Ottoman-style glass candle lamps (electrification is optional); hand-painted decorative ceramics (plates, bowls, vases, trivets,
tiles); Hand bags, travel bags, briefcases, shoes - all handmade from wool kilim (flat-weave rug) and leather; Jewelry (earrings, bracelets, necklaces, key chains); And many more.
Services: Oriental carpet cleaning; expert carpet restoration and repair; preparation and installation of electrified candle lamps
<b>Professional associations: </b>
Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA)