When Melih Cingilli opened his own restaurant in Englewood in the summer of 2018, he said it was only because of the help he’d received from his community of family and friends.
“Not only financially, but emotionally too,” Cingilli said.
He called it Bosphorus, named for the river that divides Istanbul — the largest city in his native Turkey.
Cingilli said he didn’t use advertisements to spread the word about Bosphorus. It was all about the community. People came in, enjoyed themselves, and spread the word. And that’s paid off with a nearly perfect rating on Google Maps — 4.9 out of 5 stars.
“It’s a hole in the wall but it’s the best hole in the wall this side of town!” reads one review. Another calls Cingilli “a true gem, a wonderful burst of energy.”
Cingilli took notice when restaurants began to close their doors across the country in early March, so he wasn’t surprised by Gov. Jared Polis’ March 16 order to halt indoor dining. But he’s still not sure how long his business will be able to survive on takeout orders.
“Can I hold on for months? I don't know,” he said.
Despite that uncertainty, Cingilli still believes in the power of community. Growing up in Turkey, corner store owners would give him candy or a soda if he didn’t have the money. And Cingilli’s father taught him to always have enough food in case a neighbor or friend stopped by.
Before the restrictions, Cingilli treated Bosphorus like it was his living room and his customers like they were his guests. He's determined to carry on that sentiment — even through COVID-19 closures. He knows a family whose father is stranded in Europe right now. The mother just got laid off from her job.
“I told them, like, ‘Don’t panic. I am here. I will help you. You can get the food here,'” he said.
Cingilli is proud he can make these choices as a business owner. He doesn’t have a boss to tell him no, so he can continue to help out those in need. He calls on others in the community to practice compassion for those who have less.
“If you are buying, like, seven cases of water, and if there’s a person that [has] none, you should think about that person,” he said.
For now, Cingilli continues to cook meals for carry-out or delivery through DoorDash and GrubHub. He’s hopeful for a day when he can once again welcome customers back into his living room.