Späti Stores; What Keeps Berlins Heart Beating

Späti Stores; What Keeps Berlins Heart Beating

Whether it’s a wet and dreary Winter Day, or a scorching afternoon in Summer, the Spätis that are nestled into the corner of every wall at the heart of Berlin never stop beating. These convenience stores have played an active role in the lives of Berliners since the 1950s.  Selling everything from bread to beer these stores can cater to whatever one’s heart desires! Although they were originally popular amongst late night workers, they have since become a key part of Berlins culture where people can avail of them from late at night to the early hours of the morning. At a glance there is no divide in the clientele that spend hours or minutes chatting in the que or lounging at the fragile wooden tables outdoors. Everyone is welcome inside the doors of Berlins Spätis, be it young or old, lifelong locals or fleeting visitors.

Despite most stores featuring similar products, you will find they all have their own individual stamp. Some cater to those looking for a quick grocery shop, while others are lively with party goers who attend the Spätis that host lengthy DJ sets and dazzling lights! Maria Hannsen, who has been in Berlin for the past seven years and finds herself in a Späti “almost every day”, says that these stores can be used however you like or need. “I think it’s really nice for the people here, you can use them how you like…a casual meet-up spot or grabbing a drink on the way to a party! And there’s always one nearby” she explains. Beyond being convenient, she says they are “part of the cities identity and the people’s lifestyles”. While being a key feature in the lives of those in the surrounding areas, their presence has begun to change the feel of a street for those like her. “Sometimes for me, they can almost make these streets feel more safe…late at night, because you know there’s people around you and you don’t feel stranded anywhere” she says.

While the inside of the Spätis provide the instruments, it is outside that the band plays. The tables and chairs that are squashed together on the slanted paths outside beg for buyers to sit and stay awhile. These locations are so widespread and so often used that it is hard to imagine what the city would be like without a place to sit and enjoy a €2 beer with friends. It brings people together and increases the sociable feeling that the city offers.

Späti owner Eugene Heuck, who has been behind the counter for almost six years now sees his store in a simple yet effective light and despite the mix of alcohol and late nights, there is never any trouble. “No, we don’t encounter much trouble you know, people come and get what they need and go, or sometimes they stay and hang out outside and that is welcome too”. Eugene views his job as simple one, yet he urges to explain the importance of these stores “It has become part of the peoples lives here, I think we would be a different city without these stores,” he says.

The diversity of these stores and their clientele allows people to mix with one another. This experience is possible amongst the customers and the staff too. “Being at the shop is a way for me to meet people, I can learn more about the world from right here inside. It’s hearing people’s life experiences without actually going anywhere,” says Eugene. From within Eugene’s Späti on the Northeast of Berlin, every by passer is welcome. Whether it’s for a browse, a chat or a beer, he understands the importance of welcoming everyone. “I think it’s really important that these stores are for everyone you know, rich or poor, young or old. And that makes us all the same here, we are connected in these stores,” he professes.

In a bustling city such as Berlin, Spätis offer people the chance to slow down. They provide a place for people to unite, meet with new and old friends and keep their social life alive. It’s a lookout spot to observe by passers, a pit stop on the way home from work or an affordable drink before heading out for the night. No matter what Späti, no matter where it is tucked away, these stores keep the city alive, and the people connected.

About The Author

Catherine Duggan

Catherine Duggan, a 21-year-old from the cozy town of Kerry in Southwest Ireland, is currently pursuing her degree in journalism and digital communications at the University of Limerick. With three out of four years of her degree under her belt, Catherine is fueled by her passion for human rights. This plays a huge role in her writing and sense of purpose and drive. Amidst her full academic life, she also plays a very important role as a sibling to two sisters and one brother. Catherine’s vibrant personality shows through in her love for art, doing activities like painting and drawing. As an avid traveler and people person she also finds great joy in exploring new cultures and meeting new people along the way. This brought her to do a study abroad program, studying cultural journalism at HU in Utrecht, Netherlands.