The name of our store, Ottomania, tells you that we sell products from countries and regions belonging to the former Ottoman Empire. Ottomania's devoted and enthusiastic owners are Maarten ten Böhmer and Tara Strategier. We travel, taking our children along whenever we can, to the countries where our products are made to search for beautiful products, inspiration and artisans.
How it all began
Tara's passion was kindled during her first visit to Turkey in 1986, when she was 14 years old. In the following years, her passion, together with her love for design, Ottoman architecture and lifestyle, kept growing. Fortunately her parents shared her fascination, so that a trip to Turkey became an annual family event, always going to relatively unknown regions untouched by tourism, although tourism was still rather new to Turkey at that time. After many years, Tara did a course in Turkish in Istanbul and during her studies of museology she participated in as many projects related to her passion for Turkey and the Near East as possible. Taking beautiful things from Turkey was something that Tara had already started doing as a child: wrapping paper, mouth-blown teacups, fabrics...
Together with first partner, later husband Maarten, a true entrepreneur, the first trip to Turkey was rather exciting: would he be able to understand this passion? Fortunately, he too was fascinated, and many travels to Turkey and neighbouring countries like Syria and Lebanon were to follow.
From small living room wholesale to elegant store
We started in 1997, when Tara was still studying at the university, selling Turkish products wholesale from our living room. We mostly sold domestic products, traditional towels, hamam towels and a few things made by artisans. We worked on a rather small scale and not all of our products were valued for what they were. However, the idea of running a store selling really beautiful, elegant Turkish products appealed to us. A store where we could do right by these products...
When our plans had become more serious in 2000, we went on our first trip, while expecting our first-born, to meet new people and find products for Ottomania. In the summer of 2001 we started renovating our rather ramshackle premises and placed our self-designed furniture with help from a furniture maker we knew. We opened on November 10th, 2001. Ottomania is a unique store in the Netherlands, with its own style and atmosphere, arisen purely from our own passion.
... and back to wholesale
There was no preconceived plan to our store. We just sold the products we loved. By doing so, we learned and were able to improve our quality. There was one thing that remained the same: we have always worked based on our passion, feelings and enthusiasm. When we started out, we had to do a lot of explaining: people had no idea of these products coming from Turkey and Syria. Unexpectedly, some things became a trend in the Netherlands: craftsmanship, the hamam in general and the hamam towels in particular. When we started out, we kept explaining how versatile these towels were; that they were thinly woven towels which could be used for wrapping up a baby, on vacations, on the beach, in the bath room, etc... Now it has become a trendy and popular product, known to almost everyone.
Soon afterwards, other stores asked us if they could sell our products. We have started selling wholesale again in 2003 and now supply stores world-wide. Ottomania has become an officially registered brand. But we still travel and work with the same passion, inspiration and enthusiasm.