What Makes the Trinkhalle so Unique?

Kiosks, so-called Trinkhallen, are considered to be the marketplaces of the Ruhr Region. There one knows each other, meets, talks, lives, and shares, above all, memories. Trinkhallen expert Dietmar Osses talks about bags of candies, the appeal of imperfection and the invaluableness of authenticity.

Trinkhallen - marketplaces of the Ruhr Region

Mr. Osses, how often do you frequent a Trinkhalle?

Roughly once per week. For unplanned purchases. Newspapers. This is where I get cigarettes for my wife. Every so often I realise on a Sunday that I don’t have any cherries or apple sauce to go with my waffles. I will get them at the Trinkhalle.

What does the Trinkhalle offer that the Späti convenience shop in Berlin doesn’t have? Aren’t all kiosks the same?

Structurally speaking, these mini marts are can be found in all industrialised countries. In Berlin you have huge tenement blocks with a long façade. Somewhere on the ground floor of this building you will find a Späti store. In the Ruhr Region you have plenty of space and single- or two-storey working class estates. To meet in such conditions has a very different quality, both architecturally and atmospherically.


You intentionally took your exhibition "Treffpunkt Trinkhalle" (Meeting Point Trinkhalle) to the Hannover colliery. Why?

Many Trinkhallen used to operate at the gates of the collieries. Everyone knew each other, and people stopped for a chat after their shift. In the Ruhr Region, this is the main reason why these kiosks developed their function as a place to meet and stay for a while. Although the collieries have long since closed their gates, the old coal miners continue to frequent their Trinkhalle: for coffee in the morning, for the newspaper at lunch time and for beer in the evening.

Dietmar Osses and the wall of Trinkhallen

Dietmar Osses in front of his exhibition "Treffpunkt Trinkhalle"

Will the Trinkhalle thus disappear some time in the future?

Of course, many a Trinkhalle fell victim to structural change. Where there used to be collieries, you now have shopping centres. But such centres are quiet at night with only a big, empty parking lot. Due to their small-size business model, however, Trinkhallen are also ultra-dynamic. At some point in time they started offering fax services, then Internet and then international phone cards. Trinkhallen owners may be traditionalists, on the one hand, but they try to offer products that are up to date, on the other.

One of the big appeals of the Trinkhallen is their imperfection. They are personal and improvised.

Dietmar Osses

Agility, locality, uniqueness - this is something all modern companies are striving for. Should the big players go and learn from the smallest ones?

Trinkhallen are innovative and agile. They once tried to establish Trinkhallen chains. And failed. Actually, their main business concept is not to operate according to an optimised system. Kiosks that have adopted system logistics also look that way. One of the big appeals of the Trinkhallen is their imperfection. They are personal and improvised. Those wanting to offer something new simply turn over their cardboard tray and write: "Today, sandwiches for 1 Euro only".


And how about the competition? Non-stop commitment can meanwhile also be found with other mini-marts.

The pressure is there, certainly. Nobody walks through a factory gate anymore. People drive with their car to the petrol station shop. But I have not come across any petrol station that wants people to stay and that offers what the Trinkhalle can offer: sufficient time to greet one another and have a small chat.


Sounds like a healthy deceleration?

Somewhat. Many large supermarkets are opening flagship stores that advertise with market places inviting people to stay. Some petrol stations are nowadays selling colourful bags. These are attempts to imitate uniqueness and home-made products. But that’s difficult to do. At the Trinkhalle, people invested their first deutschmark in sweets or purchased their first pack of fags. These are close ties. And I have never seen anyone getting impatient because a child had a difficult time deciding what to choose for its bag of candies. Everyone knows what that feels like.


Dietmar Osses

About Dietmar Osses

The historian Dietmar Osses is Director of the Westfälische Landesmuseum für Industriekultur (Westphalian State Museum of Industrial Heritage and Culture) at the Hannover Colliery in Bochum. The exhibition "Treffpunkt Trinkhalle" (Meeting Point Trinkhalle) curated by him is currently on display in Bochum. Osses also published a book about kiosks under the title "Die Bude. Trinkhallen im Ruhrgebiet."

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