Nicknamed the “Turkish Coffee Lady,” Gizem Şalcigil White is working to connect Americans with Turkish coffee house culture as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
As founder and CEO of the Turkish Coffee Lady Foundation, White started her Alexandria-based gourmet coffee business from the ground up with the goal of sharing her cultural heritage and building community.
“Coffee is a wonderful communication tool,” White said.
Establishing her business in 2009, White could not have predicted the various challenges she would face in both her personal and professional life.
Similarly to many other small businesses, the pandemic and its associated shutdowns permanently altered the course of business for the Turkish Coffee Lady. However, White used the pandemic as another opportunity to engage in cultural diplomacy and make connections with members of her community: immigrant-owned small business leaders.
White hosted weekly virtual coffee hours on Zoom for women from various backgrounds to share a cup of coffee and chat. Many of the women also shared their difficult experiences as immigrants navigating a new cultural environment.