The Last Chairmaker of Komotini

The Last Chairmaker of Komotini

hussein“Bring out your old chairs, folks… here comes the chairbler!”

Such is the cry of Hussein Ismet, the last chair-maker of Komotini in northern Greece, as he trawls the town street by street seeking nothing more than to ply his trade of his forebears. The locals hear him coming from blocks away.

He learned the craft from his father, who in turn learned it from his grandfather – a family business if ever there was. For as long as he can remember, Hussein has wandered around on his tricycle-cum-workshop in search of seating in need of repair.

After countless years on the mend, as it were, just a cursory glance is all Hussein needs to determine whether a chair is worth fixing, and when it is, to give an immediate estimate of how long it will take to fix, which is really all the client is paying for.

On a good day, he can make four or five chairs as good as new, but other days he cannot find a single chair to repair. “There are always bad days at the office” Hussein says.

“Thank God for the cafeterias,” he exclaims, where he can find a satisfactory day’s pay – 10 to 15 euros. Hussein’s labour might seem cheap, but his costs are even lower – the raw materials he needs are harvested from reed plants growing freely in the Evros river delta.

Despite the shortage of shredded seats to service, and the wider problems besetting Greece, Hussein remains positive. He praises God and proudly declares (again) that he is the last chairbler, of Rodopi Street, Komotini.

He smokes one last cigarette before hopping back on the three-wheeler, back on the hunt for any old chairs in need of a craftsman’s touch, bellowing his familiar catchphrase: “Here comes the chairbler … bring out yer chairs, folks!”