Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Karazona Cinar -- not exciting enough for Nicolai?

Let us skip ahead a couple of years, to early summer of 2003. Much to our surprise, we find our friend Nicolai gainfully employed, at White Furniture. But he has not shrugged off his taste for the flamboyant. Indeed, his new employer, a Turkish immigrant, Karazona Cinar, has more than an eccentric streak himself, though perhaps not to quite the extreme as Nicolai's last one:

The store is one of three in the immediate vicinity run by White furniture, a business that adds up in all the unexpected and satisfying ways that define New York and forever make the city�s prospects seem a little brighter � even in a time when the decline seems palpable.

White is the creation of Karazona Cinar -- the downtown Robin Hood of vintage furniture -- and his merry band of hip misfits who have collectively managed to build a thriving low-cost manufacturer of high end furniture in New York�s recessionary service economy.

�There�s nobody in this business doing what Karazona is doing,� says Bert Oullette a furniture bounty-hunter who arrived on Friday with a truck-full of chairs and credenzas by famed designer Florence Knoll which he had salvaged from an office building in Canada.

Cinar, who has also had success as an East Village restauranteur, recognized the growing appetite for modern designs when a friend offered to buy his dining room table in 1997 � a table he had acquired at the Salvation Army. Shortly thereafter, he launched a small used furniture store called Lollipop out of his home on Essex Street.

In 1999, he moved the business to White Street just east of Broadway, hired designers, and began manufacturing his own versions of classic pieces by the likes of Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and Isamu Noguchi.

From the beginning, he was able to undercut the market -- which was dominated by furniture boutiques selling original pieces or higher cost Italian imitations � and still make money.

�The industry was kidnapped by art galleries and museums,� says the 37-year-old Kurdish immigrant from Turkey�s troubled Tunceli province. �They think this is only for a furniture elite�.We want to bring this design to the public at the lowest price possible.�


Certainly this looks quite the creative venture, though, by the standards of pseudo.com, almost pedestrian, even "square". Would there be enough stimulation to capture and keep the interest of our iconoclastic German emigre? What would he do in a furniture venture, however cutting edge?

Again, he turned to the world of computers that would figure in his future so much:

Behind his desk, Cinar has a green bumper sticker emblazoned with “Kurdistan.” When asked if he was involved in the conflict, he says “every poor kid in Turkey was involved.”

A question about the United States invasion of Iraq draws a thoughtful crowd: Cinar, Nico Haupt, a chain smoking German who is in charge of the company’s computers, and an idealistic young native of Istanbul who says he is against all war. Judging from geography alone, there would be reason to expect conflicting points of view. There are not.

Cinar announces surprisingly that he is “a kurd who was against the war.”

Observe the independent iconoclast, juxtaposed, perhaps trapped, between the worlds of politics and art. We can only speculate, but, almost two years following to tragedy of September 11th, it is doubtful his unbridled free spirit could tolerate even the mild restrictions imposed by mundane employment in a furniture store. It is possible that this seething frustration is what catapulted Nicolai into the heart of the 9/11 Truth Movement.

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