BY CHRIS HUSSEY
It was another warm summer day for Jami Sutton at the Seven Shores Café on Regina Street in Waterloo. As a chef at the café at the time and unofficially managing the kitchen, she put together many of the organic and local dishes the café offered. The year was 2013, and it was also the year she met Juneyt Yetkiner.
Yetkiner, now 38, was performing at the café during one of their typical Thursday music nights, and it was that night that she got her first impression of him.
“Honestly, he was the gentlest soul I’d ever met,” she said. “His music was just the most beautiful experience to me.”
At the time she was in a serious relationship, and so while she said he made her feel at ease, she did not have any intentions beyond that. For him, however, it was quite a different feeling. She caught him completely off guard, to the point where he found himself thinking about her during the rest of his performance.
“I remember thinking, ‘I need to ask her out. I need to do something,’” he said.
So he did just that. While he said he can come off as quite confident and sure of himself, he’s not like that at all, especially when it comes to women. She actually had added him on Facebook in the days after his performance in case she ever wanted to go out and see him perform his music. He wasn’t aware she was already in a committed relationship, and so after she “friended” him on Facebook, he decided to take a chance and ask her out for a coffee. She was completely taken aback but let him down easy. He felt terrible and apologized.
That could have been the end of it, but like everything else in his life, Yetkiner wasn’t going to give up that easily. He was desperate just to be in her presence, and so he started going to her restaurant to do just that. He would bring a newspaper or some work, and he would just spend time in the café as she worked unknowingly behind the scenes. He had no intentions of trying to charm her if he actually saw her.
“(Being around her) made me feel peaceful,” he said.
He did this three to four times a week for over two and a half years.
Sutton said she never knew he was there, and with anyone else, she said, it would be pretty unnerving and might be closer to stalking. But she said that knowing his personality, it was completely innocent and even heartwarming.
“I viewed it as an intensely romantic gesture,” she said.
Eventually, this extreme patience did pay off for Yetkiner. He participated in a charity fashion show event last year, and one of the photos was posted to Facebook by a photographer who had covered the event. There were a lot of people who commented on it, but the one that stood out was Sutton’s. She wrote, “Love this!” He said for her to do something like that is completely out of character for her and it made him wonder if she was starting to return the feelings he had for her.
“That was the moment I realized I needed to go for it,” he said.
Once again, he did. This time, however, the feeling was mutual.
“I just fell head-over-heels for him,” said Sutton.
Almost a year later, the two are now engaged. Yetkiner’s persistence reflects in many other areas of his life as well.
He was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1977. He immigrated to Canada from Turkey through Pakistan as a young man in 1999. He actually earned two degrees in Turkey, one in political science and the other in hotel management. However, these school credits weren’t accepted in Canada. So he started off working at Tim Hortons during the night shift. After just a couple of weeks on the job, he developed enough of a rapport with his “regulars” that one of them actually offered him a room she had that had been recently vacated.
But despite all his education and the many places he worked, Yetkiner was really passionate about becoming a musician. He is a talented flamenco guitarist and received his first real guitar from his mother back in Turkey.
The flamenco guitar is similar to a classical guitar, but differs in how it’s played. It’s a technically complex style of music that can be difficult to attempt, let alone master. John McKinley, a professional musician who mentored many local musicians in this region, including Yetkiner, said it comes effortlessly to Yetkiner.
“Most people who are listening to the tunes may not notice (how good he is), but trust me, real musicians notice that,” he said.
As Yetkiner worked to fulfill his dream of being a full-time musician and cycled through a variety of jobs, he got his diploma as a computer programmer/analyst from Conestoga College in 2006.
Now, after steadily working his way into the industry, Yetkiner is now living that dream of being a full-time musician. He’s a mainstay at several venues, including the Easy Pour Wine Bar in Blair, Molly Blooms in Waterloo and the Artisonale French Country Cooking in Guelph. And while he still has that first guitar given to him by his mother back in Turkey, he now has 42 others to go along with it.
He also hasn’t forgotten his humble roots and routinely gives back to the community, which he says helped him so much. He works with a lot of charities in the community each year, and can also be found in community events, such as The Shot. The music competition is based in the region and geared toward students, and Juneyt has served as one of the four judges in seasons two and three of the competition.
McKinley said Yetkiner has earned his success.
He’s way up there in terms of talent, but he doesn’t act like it,” he said. “This community has done better because he’s been in it.”
Sutton said his optimism has helped him carve his own path to being a successful musician and ultimately win her heart.
“No matter what life has thrown his way, he’s always found a way to persevere,” she said. “He doesn’t let anything get in his way, and he makes no excuses for himself …. Time and time again I hear about how he is such a genuine and kind-hearted soul. I’m so insanely blessed to be able to experience that first-hand every day.”