KISÜZEM BAR

Kis Diófa utca 2.
BUILT IN: 1895


STORY

At the intersection of Dob Street and Kis Diófa Street stands an elegant building constructed in the Historicist style on the basis of plans by architect József Gutwillig and built in 1895 on commission by Mrs. Vilmos Lányi. The ground floor of the two-story tenement building was designed to house businesses, restaurants, coffee shops and the like.

Indeed the building was home to Erzsébet, or Elizabeth, one of the most popular coffee shops at the time. It was run by Dávid Kohn. Sadly, during World War One the coffee shop went bankrupt, but it served as an inspiring locale for artists and intellectuals of the neighborhood and city, if perhaps only for a short time.

Erzsébet was followed by Szalay Söntés, a bar with drinks on tap where guests enjoyed beers and brandies made in a boiler, along with János Szalay’s prize-winning wines, including “kadarka” (a light Hungarian red wine), Blaufränkisch varieties, and “hárslevelű” or linden-leaf wines (another distinctive Hungarian wine), which were provided by the Gyöngyös Visontai Manor Vintage Wine Cellar. The cellar was run by Adolf Schindelheim, who after 1945 oversaw the secular affairs of the Orthodox Jewish Community of Gyöngyös. Thanks to his prudent choice of a partner, who provided a broad range of wines, Szalay was able to meet the demands of the Jewish and non-Jewish population and thus his business prospered.

After the Second World War, coffee, wines, and other drinks were no longer served in the buildings and the customer traffic on the ground floor thus declined for a long time. A few craftsmen tried to keep their business afloat, including a small watch and jewelry store on the Dob Street side of the building. It had been founded in the 1920s by Vilmos Seltenwirth. When Seltenwirth died in 1957, his son, Viktor Seltenwirth, who later changed his name to Győző Somlai, took over the business. Until his death in 1981, Somlai repaired and cleaned the analogue watches brought in by his customers. After his death, his widow, Zsuzsanna Paskesz, ran the business. When she died, the store finally closed its doors to the public for good.

However, the legacy of the Somlai-Paskesz family did not come to an end with the closing of the store. A few buildings down, on the side of the street with odd-numbered addresses, Zev Paskesz, their son, works on the first floor of the seat of the Orthodox Jewish Community. He is the secretary-general of the Orthodox community and also the director of the Yeshiva. Rav Paskesz uses the pocket watch he was given by his parents when conducting Shiurim (lessons on the Torah).

Following the change of regimes, for a short time an electronics store was in operation in the commercial space that had once housed the bar. Then it stood empty for a long time. Towards the end of 2011, Kisüzem ('Little Workshop') was drawn to the site by the potentials of the large, open interior space and the spirit of pre-war times. Kisüzem manages to blend the coffee shop space and intellectual mood of the turn of the century with the ruin pub atmosphere of the surroundings. One notes, upon stepping through its doors, that the business brings together different generations and different eras, both through its interior design and its furnishings. From early afternoon until late in the night, it hosts exhibitions, concerts, and readings. At the initiative of the cooks, in 2014 the 'Weekly Portion' program was launched. Every Sunday, 200-250 lunches are given to the needy who have gathered on Klauzál Square, just across from Kisüzem. Many bars, restaurants, and diners in the area joined the program. They take turns preparing the meals, in part with generous donations made by their customers.

See the artist: Márton Szirmai 

By Viktor Cseh