Punks in Kreuzberg: 35 years of Coretex

Kreuzberg is legendary for its punk scene. Here's the story of Coretex, the shop that's become an institution of Kreuzberg punk.

Photo: Lennart Koch

Coretex is one of Kreuzberg’s punk institutions (if that isn’t an oxymoron). This place isn’t just another tourist trap: it’s been supplying clothes, records, and other punk essentials since 1988. We met manager David Strempel amongst the hardcore shirts, stickers, patches and records. It’s hard to imagine Kreuzberg – or Berlin – without this place and the culture it celebrates. So here’s to another 35 years!

Manager David Strempel in front of Coretex. Photo: Lennart Koch

1988: Derelict Buildings & Squatters

it wasn’t uncommon to see street battles between police and squatters in those years

It all started with Suicidal Tendencies (the band). In the early 1980s, David made the short but life-changing trek from bourgeois Charlottenburg to run-down Kreuzberg. In the late 1980s, Oranienstrasse wasn’t the tourist hotspot that it is today, but rather a residential Turkish neighbourhood with street bazaars and coal dealers, proletarian pubs and a left-wing alternative scene that came together in squats and the SO36. It wasn’t uncommon to see street battles between police and squatters in those years. If that isn’t punk, then we don’t know what is.

In the 1980s Kreuzberg looked very different. By the way, this is SO36, a neighboring punk institution. Photo: Imago/Detlev Konnerth

In February 1988, Coretex Records opened in the middle of the chaos on Adalbertstraße. The small record store provided West Berlin’s punk and hardcore fans with the best new releases from America and Britain. This is where Suicidal Tendencies enters the story: they happened to be David Strempel’s favorite band. Every day, he’d go to Coretex to ask about his heroes from California – and again and again they didn’t have the US vinyl pressing he wanted. Eventually, the shop took pity on him and put the album on cassette, and then gave it to David for free. This was his unofficial invitation into the punk subculture.

Coretex Managing Director David Strempel drummed with the Berlin straight-edge pioneers Charley’s War. Photo: David Strempel Archive

Pillars of Punk

35 years later, David is one of three owners at Coretex. He still thinks about that Suicidal Tendencies cassette: “I knew immediately that it wasn’t about selling stuff, but about the love of music,” he says. “My shop should always embody that.” David became one of the owners way back in 1996 through the merger of three major punk and hardcore record stores: Funrecords, Coretex and MAD Tourbooking, where he worked. “We wanted to bring all the pillars of punk under one roof,” he says.

New location on Oranienstraße: Coretex in the 90s. Photo: Imago/Lem

The shop found a new home in a former squat at Oranienstrasse 3. Strempel imported records, merchandise and designed Coretex shirts. In a scene that is not least defined by clothing, DIY designs are hitting the mark. “I just made things that I wanted to wear myself,” says Strempel, “sometimes it worked, sometimes not, but at least I always had a cool shirt in the end.”

The flyer from the Coretex opening in 1988 is still hanging in the store today. Photo: Lennart Koch

The Cult of Coretex

These days, Coretex is known for producing some of the best merch in the punk and hardcore scene. Hundreds of shirts, sweaters, jackets and hats hang in the bustling shop. You can expect the best in punk design and aesthetics here: the classic (black shirts with white lettering), adventurous, colorful shirts with detailed back prints and plenty of visual references to iconic design from punk legends like Bad Brains or Agnostic Front.

Anti-Flag and the Coretex crew in front of the store. Photo: suzimue

The merch is a lucrative source of business. In Kreuzberg and beyond, you constantly run into people wearing the Coretex Panther on their chests. “I’m super proud every time I see someone with our stuff,” says David, “and when bands wear the shirts on stage, it’s of course a dream.” At Coretex, up-and-coming and established groups alike play shows between the record crates – just to name a few: Judge, Brian Fallon, Frank Carter, ZSK and Slime. Legends like Gorilla Biscuits, Dropkick Murphys and even Suicidal Tendencies feel at home at Coretex.

The Coretex “Hold Your Ground” stage at Myfest was always legendary. Photo: Imago/Frank Brexel

punk has always been inherently political; mosh pits and political speeches are not mutually exclusive

“Anti-Flag once said they could never come to Berlin without visiting us,” says David, “that’s really touching to me.” Legendary punk drummer Bela B is also a regular customer, and happens to be a huge fan of the house band Troopers. Coretex is also a big part of Myfest – Berlin’s premiere May Day festival. 

David and co-owners Udo Flütter and Andreas Gindullis have been involved from the very beginning: the Coretex Stage is the best place to see punk legends and newcomers alike. Punk has always been inherently political; mosh pits and political speeches are not mutually exclusive. “Punk is about questioning things, voicing your opinion and standing up for it,” as David puts it, “in that respect you stay punk forever.”

From the scene and for the scene: the Coretex team. Photo: Linus Karstaedt 

Rising Gentrification: “Hold your ground”

Coretex is a Kreuzberg institution, and is thus the front line of defense against the neighbourhood’s rampant gentrification. Their motto – “Hold Your Ground” – is a request not to accept the displacement of people and their authentic culture. Even if Oranienstraße seems more resistant to change than other places in Berlin, neighbouring institutions are disappearing – most recently, the bookstore Kisch & Co. “We have power, we just have to do it,” says David, “we can enclose a flyer with every order, print slogans on shirts, be political.”

Records, books and merchandise at Coretex. Photo: Mike Auerbach 

Selling records is a big responsibility. “We only sell stuff that we identify with, both musically and politically,” he says. He also sees the promotion of young talent as a duty of a good record store: “Bring ten records with you, and maybe they’ll sell,” he says to the young hopefuls. There are fewer and fewer springboards for newcomers in Berlin, so Coretex is a lifeline. “We are a cog in this huge system,” he says, “but everything works when we work together.”

A Punk Grows Up

Two generations of Coretex fans: the Wendlandt family from Spandau wearing Coretex merchandise. Photo: Sebastian Kreiss

Sebastian Kreiss from Spandau has been a customer since day one. He still has the flyer from the 1988 opening of the store. These days, his children wear Coretex shirts and accompany him to punk gigs. “The band Verbal Assault once sang: ‘It’s more than music, it’s more than fashion, it’s our life’,” he says, “for me Coretex was always exactly that. More than records, more than T-shirts, a piece of our life.”

  • Coretex Records Oranienstr. 3, Kreuzberg, Mon–Sat 11:00-20:00, online