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  • Suarezstraße: Berlin’s last antique street


Suarezstraße: Berlin’s last antique street

Each year, Suarezstraße in Charlottenburg hosts the Antikmeile, a massive fair of vintage shopping.

At first stroll, Suarezstraße is no different from any other Charlottenburg street: beautiful Altbauten on either side, with a few cafés, wine bars and restaurant signs. But if you look closer, Suarezstraße is different – the only one of its kind in Berlin. Dozens of antique shops line the wide pavements, offering vintage furniture, books, paintings, porcelain, chandeliers, clocks, jewellery, historical linen and clothing, and folk art. Some shops resemble Eastern European living rooms, with orange standing lamps, armchairs dressed in striped fabric and porcelain tea sets in an antique cabinet. Others are filled to the ceiling with books, and another has a collection of African wooden statues in front of the doors, inviting people inside to peruse the treasures. Newer stores are less crammed with furniture and display more of a concept – 1950s, Art Deco or Art Nouveau. Collectors travel from all over the world for this kilometre-long treasure hunt.

Suarezstraße, which today hosts about 30 antique shops, has outlasted similarly-themed streets like Kantstraße and Bleibtreustraße, both long since forced to give up focusing on just one kind of business. The street’s first antique store opened in the fall of 1969, and others quickly followed – by the early seventies there were as many as 50.

“I liked the street because it was wider than usual and one could, back then, also use the sidewalk to display furniture,” says Uwe Scheepers, the owner of Antik Mobiliar und Mehr, who has been there from the very beginning. “We got the shop for one mark per square metre, and I quickly filled it. So we went ahead and rented another space, and then three months later a third one. All three used to be butcher shops, so it smelled like meat inside for months,” he recounts. The learning curve was steep. “If something sold very fast we knew we gave it too cheap, but slowly we got better and better at it.”

Zeitlos on Suarezstraße specialised on vintage furniture. Photo: Makar Artemev

Scheepers soon rented one of his shops to another vendor selling softwood furniture, and friends of his began opening similar shops across the street. The sellers were supported by the Sperrmüllaktionen of the 1970s, when each Kiez had designated days when they could dump all their unwanted large trash in front of their buildings to be removed by the city. The term ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ became quite literal; the antique traders would roam the Kiez and often find rare, historical pieces they’d then sell. In addition, Scheepers built connections across a divided city, receiving a container from East Germany weekly.

“Comes fast, goes fast, that’s my motto!” Scheepers says. “As they were unloading the truck of DDR things people would stand around to take a look and make an offer. I’d get all of them coffee, burgers and apple pies from McDonald’s, and most of the things were gone without ever entering my store.” Today, nearly 80 years old, he’s still invested in the business but feels like the street’s days are numbered. “In five to ten years, it’s all gonna be gone,” he predicts.


Chalet. Photo: Makar Artemev

His gloomy forecast isn’t unwarranted. Several of the antique stores have been forced out in recent years, either by increasing rents or landlords looking to sub in offices, hairdressers and hardware stores. Some of the shop owners simply grew too old to carry on. Many are still holding on though – sometimes for reasons that have little to do with stellar sales. Gossip has it that one of the owners inherited a big sum and sells antiques for fun; others are pensioners who can afford not to make a living off of their sales.

Manuela Schikorsky, another of Suarezstraße’s longtime tenants, opened her shop, Chalet, in 1999. She later gained mild celebrity by participating in three seasons of the RTL network’s show, Die Superhändler – 4 Räume, 1 Deal.

“I got the love of antiques from my grandparents and great aunt. She gave me my first piece of antique furniture too, a little side table,” she recalls. Each piece at her shop, filled to the ceiling with lamps, small statues, candleholders, porcelain, a field of tables and cupboards and paintings on the walls, is carefully handpicked by Schikorsky. After 40 years, she has a gut feeling for what’s going to sell, she says. However, she has noticed a drop in sales.

“It was very different when I started, I just did a newspaper ad and people were queuing up in front of the door! Today I have a few returning customers and people looking for something in particular. Corona definitely affected us, but not as much as the war and the energy crisis. People no longer want to spend so much money on furniture they don’t have the space for and that is not easy to move,” Schikorsky explains while fixing a broken lightbulb in a standing lamp.

Regardless of the difficulties, she remains optimistic about the future of the street, with new vendors taking over and a commitment to keeping the street’s neighbourly spirit alive. “There is not a lot of competition between us. If I know someone else has what the customer is looking for, I’ll redirect them. It’s better to keep people around, otherwise they’ll go look elsewhere.” She no longer buys things that are too pricey for the average person, though the most expensive piece in her store is €8,000.


Perhaps the biggest attraction of Suarezstraße is its annual Antikmeile, a fair that stretches the entire street and spills onto the sidewalks. Over a hundred sellers from across Europe set up stalls, and the streets are filled with people in historical clothing, music, food and drink – a real attraction for anyone on the hunt for a good deal. Around 30,000 visitors are expected each year. The fair’s organisers, Regina Pröhm and Michael Schrottmeyer, have been running the event for 22 years.

“When we first advertised a nostalgia festival we were extremely sceptical whether anyone would show up at all, but the results were overwhelming,” says Pröhm. “Within a few years the Antikmeile grew so big that the shops’ owners formed an organisation. We don’t let just anyone set up a stand, we select the vendors carefully and choose people who know what they are doing – we don’t want to turn the event into a flea market.”

Not all the shop owners are happy with the Meile, though. Some of the street’s owners choose to opt out completely, like Katharine Göres, who runs the historical clothing shop Spitze and feels like it is becoming less of a festival these days. “It used to be really nice, with music and one year even a photo exhibit of us owners, made by a local photographer. But in the past years it’s rather like a flea market, and even though perhaps we generate more business on that particular day, people tend to buy less before and after because they are hoping for better deals at the Meile,” Göres explains. “Plus it’s very stressful – for example, I always need extra help that day and would only let six people in at once to avoid stealing or damaging the clothes.”

Spitze. Photo: Makar Artemev

Göres is one of the newcomers of Suarezstraße; she took over the ownership of Spitze in January 2020. The shop’s previous owners worked there collecting clothes for 38 years. When they wanted to retire, Göres, who’d been an opera singer and loves beautiful costumes, jumped at the challenge. “A lot of our clothes are bought by theatre and film productions – that definitely helps us to survive – and otherwise people come to shop for weddings, theme parties, Krimi [murder mystery] dinners.” she explains. “But most people don’t want to pay for an original 1920s piece, for example. They go between €800-1,800, people rather look for the cheaper things.”

This may be true, as online shopping skyrockets and cheap Flohmärkte abound. But for now, Suarezstraße hangs on, not least because of its passionate vendors, offering one-of-a-kind fare and expert advice. As we speak, there’s a young couple browsing Spitze’s aisles. They’re not looking for anything in particular, just enjoying what the street has to offer buried under the heaps of furniture, oil paintings and clothes: a piece of Berlin history.

  • The next Antikmeile takes place on Sep 2