North London's Cultural Guide

Sarah Park Meets: Hasan Volkan, 55, dry-cleaner

This Fortess Road shop-owner is as passionate about society as he is about clean clothes

Hasan: I wish I had lived 150 years ago when we relied on human power and not gadgets.' Photo: Andy Stewart (
Hasan Volkan: ‘I wish I had lived 150 years ago when we relied on human power and not gadgets.’ Photo: Andy Stewart (
Sarah Park:
Sarah Park
A fixture on Fortess Road for over 13 years, this is a man who’s seen a million shop fronts come and go but believes “its kind heart” changes very little. Customers get more than clean clothes in Sun Dry Cleaners: he’s passionate about society and is always good for an early morning political debate. Over coffee of course.

What brought you to NW5?
I’m originally from Cyprus where I was a traffic policeman, but there was not much work because there were very few cars. I came to the UK in 1983 as there was more opportunity for a young man like me. When I arrived in NW5, I thought it looked like a nice, clean area.

Why dry cleaning?
My first job was in Hackney working in a clothing factory making clothes for Chelsea Girl, which is now River Island. I enjoyed textiles; it was completely different from being a policeman. But then the factory moved to India. I had friends in Tufnell Park and they knew that the dry-cleaner’s was for sale. I came here with my wife, took one look at the place and said to her: “We can make this work.”

What makes you unhappy?
Watching the people in Calais. When I arrived here I was questioned for hours about why I was coming to the UK, but my father spoke English and it was easy for me to come in. We have to give the people in Calais a chance. Some lunatic is pushing people out of their homes and destroying their lives: these people have done nothing so we need to help them. We need to imagine life as they see it. How would we feel if we were them? We would want help.


What do you talk to your customers about?
They are good people; very respectful, kind and honest, with a positive attitude. They come in and we talk about the future, the people in Calais and how they want to help. But it is difficult for them, they have their own worries. Money doesn’t stay in your pocket anymore.

Hasan: 'It was a good decision to come here.' Photo: Andy Stewart.
Hasan: ‘It was a good decision to come here.’ Photo: Andy Stewart.
What makes you happy?
My wife, and my two children, who are 32 and 38: one lives in Enfield and the other in Cyprus. I have a large family over there, five brothers and four sisters.

What do you do after work?
I live in Hackney so I travel home and sleep. I work hard, but I enjoy it. I will work forever. I don’t use much technology. I wish I had lived 150 years ago when we relied on human power and animal power and not so much on gadgets.

Would you go back to Cyprus?
You can’t forget your roots. But the Middle East is burning, why would I want to return to the fire? Now the UK is my home, my second motherland.

Does everyone who comes into your shop offer to buy you a coffee (I did and so did one of his customers during our chat)? I have very loyal customers and we talk about life when they come into the shop. They make me happy. It was a good decision to come here: I have a good life.

Find Sun Dry Cleaners at 167 Fortess Road NW5. Follow Sarah on @sarahparktypes

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