Despite the sweltering Turkish summer, American pilots shopped for handsewn leather jackets at Pop's Leather. Sitting on the edge of the NATO airbase at Incirlik, Pops is just one of many businesses that have for decades depended upon American clientele.
Today, they receive nary a visitor, says Shafak Acikgoz whose family has run Pops since the 1960s. Neither do the other "alley shops" that long sold souvenirs and good to foreign soldiers.
Shafak is the second generation to work in Pop's Leather. Pops Leather was started in the late 1960s by his Acikgoz's father, Yashar. Then Incirlik was little more than a village when today it is a suburb of Adana – Turkey's fifth largest city by population. His father who opened the shop insisted Safak learn English to help grow the business.
American pilots were the shop's target customers. On a good day, the shop would sell as many as ten leather jackets.
"It takes six hours and the labor of six workers to make each jacket," he says. He describes in detail the cutting, gluing, stitching, ironing, and cleaning of the finished product that goes into every jacket.
Acikgoz says it has been this way since 2015 when the Americans vanished behind the long fence which surrounds the NATO airbase. The U.S. military decided that it was too dangerous for American personnel to venture off base as the NATO hub became key in the war on terror. The 3320-acre airbase is home to thousands of personnel, including roughly 2,200 Americans, and now handles over a third of all air refueling operations of "Operation Inherent Resolve" – as anti-ISIL operations as known - the airbase handles roughly a fifth of all close-air support operations for refueling, according to Pentagon reports. The base is also vital for Operation Inherent – America’s military mission in Afghanistan.
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