Vintage with a Twist

Sing blackbird cafe
At Sing Blackbird, café patrons sit a few steps from the vintage clothes for sale. Photo: Irina Ivanova

 

When Tasha Arana followed her boyfriend to Berlin on a tourist visa, she discovered the reason for the city’s bohemian reputation: jobs are scarce and don’t pay much. She met Diana Durdic, an engineer-turned-baker, at a friend’s birthday party (Durdic made the cake). The two women shared a love of vintage and soon struck a bargain. “We set a date,” Durdic says. “If we couldn’t find a better job by then, we’d open a shop.”

Sing Backbird, the vintage store and vegan café they now co-own, is the result of their combined passions. The double storefront on a quiet tree-lined street took six months to find and three to renovate—from removing the drop ceilings and enlarging the doorway to collecting the chairs one by one. Amid the city’s prevailing industrial-punk look, the refined décor stands out. The sleek coffee bar and chairs, in crisp heather-gray, contrast with cozy birch-patterned wallpaper. A small sewing machine in the corner is a reminder that Arana alters some of the garments, many of which are procured stateside.

She often works to get a more contemporary fit: shortening a pair of shorts, or taking in a blouse. Collared shirts sometimes become skirts, keeping the existing button frontand hemline. Customers can also trade quality vintage pieces for store credit.

Though neither Arana nor Durdic was vegan, they decided to offer vegan brunch alongside the traditional rolls and cheese. In a neighborhood known for its kebabs, vegan entrees such as the “Hungry Karl” and “Bunny Breakfast” soon proved immensely popular. Wednesday nights, Blackbird screens movies, and the walls feature local artists’ work. Their diversified business model draws customers even in winter, when Berlin’s outdoor café life shuts down.

In two years, Sing Blackbird has been featured in Vogue Italia, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Daily Beast. “I can’t imagine leaving,” Arana says. “Having a business in New York never quite seemed possible, but here I was really confident.”

 

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