Late summer 2021: The building is sold
‘My community kitchen is on the ground floor of a house in Kreuzberg – a highly sought-after part of Berlin. Sadly, everyone that rents here found out that our building had been sold to a luxury development company from Austria. We tried to buy the building back with the help of a social housing organization but, because we'd missed the deadline, we weren't able to. This is a crushing blow – it could mean the end for my business.
‘Brewers, bakers, soap makers and chefs use my kitchen as a production facility or event space. The kitchen is doubly important for me, because I’m a maker, too. It’s where I make cleaning products from natural ingredients. If I lose the kitchen, not only will I lose the revenue it generates, but I'll need to find a new place to make my products. And it's not easy to find an affordable kitchen with the correct certification in Berlin.’
Autumn 2021: Feeling the pressure
‘What I love so much about Berlin is that people fight against price rises; they don't just accept them like other cities I've lived in. I think that's a big part of Berlin – having this community spirit and helping the smaller guy. All the tenants have been told we can remain in the building for another two years, but it's not clear how long we'll be able to stay after that. This is great news, but I worry about the long term. Because I'm a business, the new owner has the right to increase my rent by six times what I currently pay. I don't know if they'll do this, but I've heard horror stories.
‘The irony is that my little kitchen is actually the busiest it's ever been. Lots of people have quit their jobs because of Covid and are finally pursuing their dreams of starting their own small business. Although that's amazing, it is an added pressure on me. That's why I've got to work really hard to find a solution, because so many people are depending on me not losing the kitchen.’
Late autumn 2021: A successful pop-up
‘We transformed the kitchen into a pop-up shop for our Hexenküche (Witches' Kitchen) community and are celebrating Samhain: when harvests are brought in and the darker half of the year begins. The makers who use our space love the pop-up because it brings everything together. This is the seventh pop-up we've done since March 2020, and it's really beautiful to see how it grows and how everybody has an interest in natural produce and herbs and witchiness.
‘Lots of our brands are run by women, so one of the things I treasure the most about this space is that I can support and bring them all together. Other production kitchens are overwhelming and filled with scary machinery. Our kitchen is a bit smaller. Plus, there's lots of daylight and everything in there is easy to understand. I think that makes it a little less intimidating. So, maybe that's why women feel more comfortable in my kitchen. And this is what it's always been about – Daheim actually means “at home” in my native Bavarian dialect.’
December 2021: Fatigue sets in
‘I feel like I'm running on empty at the moment. The kitchen is receiving lots of corporate bookings for Christmas events but German bureaucracy means that, unless they have the right hygiene certificate, they are not allowed to clean up after themselves. So, I have to do all the cleaning myself. I'm having to stay up until 10pm most nights during the week, then I'm up at 6am the next morning to do all the cleaning before my first producers are in at 8am. It's really draining. I must also balance this with looking after my five-year-old daughter as childcare in Germany tends to shut down over Christmas. I'd quite like this year to be over so I can have a bit of a break.’
January 2022: Pivoting to survive
‘My rent increases at the beginning of the year. So, of course, what I charge for all the startups will have to change as well for the first time since I started in 2015. I've had to increase rates for production from €15 per hour to €18, and from €23 to €25 for events. But the idea behind my kitchen has always been about being an affordable space for other businesses, so I really don't like increasing prices.
‘I recognize that Berlin is changing – for my kind of property, rents have increased by 15% since I last looked. When I lived in London, I had a cafe in Bethnal Green but we got pushed out because the rents were too high. It would be a shame if that happened again. Now that my little kitchen does have a sell-by date, I've been thinking a lot about making the most of the next few years. I've made some progress on looking into possibly getting charity status or support from the government. And I've been finding out about fundraising as well. I really want to support this community and to do something worthy, even if it's just for the next two years.’
This article was first published in Courier issue 46, April/May 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.