Lesvos has moved.. in Athens!24-04-2017 13:13
Two young men, Lefteris Antonakas and Andreas Karapatakis, leave Plomari of Lesvos where they grew up and open a store in the centre of Athens city, with traditional products of the North East Aegean. They create a paradise of local products of Lesvos, Lemnos and Chios, and promote the gastronomic wealth of their homeland.
We “dipped” on the selves of their shop and the senses of smell and taste were absolutely satisfied!
Would you please tell us how did you come up with the idea of opening a store with traditional products of Lesvos and Chios?
We came up with the idea in 2010. Both me and Andreas were born and raised in Plomari of Lesvos. We were thinking of creating something that would connect the products with the land they come from. Lesvos, like the close island of Lemnos, has amazing gastronomy, so we thought it would be nice to open a store where people could find the best quality products of Northeast Aegean islands, learn about them and include them in their life and nutrition.
We moved to Athens and began to look for space. We were lucky to find this particular shop, on the historic Athinas street, near the central Varvakeios Market, because it’s an extremely central spot of the city. We are located between Monastiraki and Omonoia, two of the most famous squares in Athens, both easily accessible by metro and electric train.
What products does someone find in Peri Lesvou store?
There is a wide variety of traditional products, with the 99% of them being from Lesvos, Lemnos and Chios. You will find cheese, dairy, alcohol such as the well known ouzo of Mytilene, wines, pasta, spoon sweets, jams, honey, tahini, olive oils, rasks, and products with mastic of Chios. With the 1% that remains, I refer to some pulses we bring from the region of Prespa, Kastoria and Grevena in North Greece.
Talk to us a little bit about some special products someone could buy here.
In Peri Lesvou grocery store you will find plenty of products for a balanced diet, many of which are products with a designation of origin, such as the traditional “ladotyri” cheese, which is made of sheep’s and goat’s milk. In the past years, when there were no refrigerators, this type of cheese would mature in its oil. Nowdays, it is produced in a quite different way, remaining, however, rich in flavor and with special character. We sell some delicious graviera cheese, excellent yogurt in handmade aloustart clay pot (so that it drains in there), traditional cheeses of Lemnos (melichloro, kaskavali), feta, some saucages and many more…
We noticed a special corner full of aromatic herbs, right?
Yes, these are herbs that grow exclusively in Mytilene and do not come from crops. It is what the place gives, in the quantities given by nature. In general, there is nothing in our store that it is not Greek! This is our basic philosophy and through the years of operating, we’ve been very respectful to that. It’s our deal with the market.
The island of Lesvos (Mytilene) has a huge tradition in the production of ouzo. What do you offer in that field?
Those who love drinking ouzo will find a wide variety of labels. Actually we have more than 30 different labels from small local producers. Some varieties come after the procedure of distillation, some others not. But all of them come from the “metropolis” of ouzo, Mytilene.
Not to mention wine as well. We do have excellent wines from the island of Lemnos, that was known in mythology for wine production. We even have a variety from Chios with mastic, which is something unique and worth tasting!
There is a great variety of rusks as well. Will you tell us about them?
The rusks come from female cooperatives or other producers of Lemnos and Lesvos. You can choose among whole grain rusks, barley, oil rusks, with sugar or sugar free, sweet or salty. This is one more product we provide in a wide variety, so that our customers find the one that suits best their taste.
What do your customers say about Peri Lesvou grocery store?
This place opened in 2011. Given that Greece is going through a very difficult financial period, it is admirable for a business to withstand in its field of operation. We, due to the high quality and affordable prices, have loyal customers who visit us for their purchases on a daily or weekly basis, and we are grateful about that.
You are located on a very touristic spot. Do you have any foreign customers who wish to learn about traditional products?
We have both passers-by, who walk around the historic center, but also many who arrive at the store by holding our business card, after recommendation. When these customers step in our store, we offer them many products to taste: different olive oils, ouzo, wine, mastic liquers…
What are the products most preffered by your foreing customers?
The love Greek olive oil. This is the No1 product they buy to take back in home. They also ask for packaged cheeses, wine, mastic of Chios and some others.
Someone would expect that these products would be expensive, since they are hard to find. I can see, however, a very reasonable pricing policy. Do you want to explain that to us?
Our prices are affordable because we basically work with Greek customers. 70% of our turnover comes from Greeks, that’s why we try to keep our prices down. For this quality, I emphasize. Some of the products we work on are also sold in other tourist zones ans shops, much more expensive. Tourists are pleasantly shocked by our prices and buy our products in quantity.
Which is your relation to the island today? Do you visit Lesvos?
Lesvos is our birthplace, our homeland. We have family and friends there. So each of us travels there 3-4 times a year, for vacation or business. In winter, we do go for the olive picking and the production and packaging of our own olive oil. In general, there is intense contact with our place and close relationships with the local producers.
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