Born 1924 in Greece, on the small island of Gökçeada, Despina Kanda’s dream was to move to the bustling Istanbul.
When she was just 14, Kanda took her small suitcase and boarded a ship. Kanda settled in Tatavla (Kurtuluş) in Istanbul’s Şişli district, which was home to many Greeks. In 1940, she started running a casino owned by Madame Teresa in Moda. While she worked, she began dreaming of opening her own alehouse.
Thus Kanda became Turkey’s first female entrepreneur. Known as Madame Despina, she operated the alehouse for more than 60 years, during which its fame spread beyond Turkey. Shortly before her death in 2006, she handed the alehouse over to Ercan Tekin.
Determined to keep Despina alive, Tekin has applied to the Council of Monuments to register its name as a brand and also wants to establish a foundation.