An insight into what it takes to start up and run a business in Greece, with delicious deli food, scrumptious cakes and wonderful people.
Despite the continuing economic crisis across Greece, I see people still trying to start up new businesses every year. My admiration for those who try grows each year as things here seem to get more difficult. Taxes keep going up, the cost of living has risen and with the advent of more all-inclusive hotels, it’s getting harder for people to make a living here.
With everything stacked against them, I wanted to find out from one local business, why they started up and just how hard it is. What I found was a story of courage, love and a family that work and support each other in the traditional way that Greeks always have.
Opening should be the easy bit
Penny Pie opened on the main road in Lardos on May 11th, 2017. It was a month later than originally planned because as is always the case here they were waiting for paperwork to be completed before they could open.
To open a business in Greece you need to have a permit in order to get your till so that you can be within the tax laws. I’ve seen many businesses over years open months later than planned while waiting for their permit. It can be a very frustrating time.
Andreana and her husband Manoli who run Penny Pie have an uncle who is an accountant but they still couldn’t open as planned. Though Andreana admitted that in hindsight it was a good thing as it gave her more time to work on the menu and few other finishing touches.
People for me are what make a place and it’s the same with a business, Andreana and Manoli are the cornerstones of theirs. When we first sat down to discuss doing an article about the business and Andreana started to tell me her story I knew that it was a story others would love to hear.
The woman behind Penny Pie
Andreana was born in Canada to Greek parents and they moved back to Greece when she was 3 months old. Speaking to her today the Canadian side her upbringing is still very evident in her accent. Her sisters were 12 and 14 when they moved here so during her formative years at home in Rhodes town she learnt English not learning Greek until she started school.
She never started out with the intention of being in the catering business. Andreana qualified as an interior designer in Athens and that was what she did when she first came back to the island. The skills from then are evident in the way that Penny Pie has been designed. It’s very different from any other place I’ve been on the island it’s a cohesive design with ice-cream colours that remind you of a deli in the U.S.
With a love of baking, she never realised it could one day be her job. Friends and family loved her baking and eventually, she was asked to bake for the village cafe. Enjoying being with people an socialising as much as cooking, for the next 6 years, Andreana went to work baking her cakes. First in the Village Cafe then Melia, both in Lindos.
The importance of family
Andreana met, fell in love and married Manoli 10 years ago, they struggled for 8 years with infertility and went through 2 courses IVF before their son Filimon arrived, he is now an inquistive, energetic and very lovable 2 years old. In August 2015 while celebrating that the IVF had worked they also received the news that Manoli had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Family is such an important part of Greek life, it is central to everything that happens here. In many ways, it is with the help and support of family that Penny Pie exists today. The building is owned by Andreana parents who live upstairs and also look after Filimon. Initially, it was going to be a deli run by Manoli while Andreana was going to go back to work in Lindos. However, once she was ready to return to work after having Filimon her job no longer existed.The continuing financial crisis in Greece has continued to make life harder for business owners. Taxes and costs have gone up and at the same time, tourism has changed with an increase in all-inclusive and cruise ship visitors who just don’t spend much on the islands.
With a change in direction, Andreana decided to become a larger part of Penny Pie and quickly took over the design and direction of the business. The family also helped in the shape of Uncle Steve over on the island from New Jersey. He used to run 6 diners in New York and stepped in with lots of advice about the menu. Amazingly he also gave her his secret recipe for New York cheesecake. Something he’s never given to anyone, not even his own children.
Andreana has promised to keep the secret, I did try to get the recipe to share with you but she wouldn’t give in.
What is it really like to run a business in Greece?
Many people come on holiday and dream of running a business on a Greek island. The reality is often a long way from the rose-tinted hopes that they have. For Andreana and Manoli it’s been just as difficult and like many couples, they’ve also had to learn to work together.
At first, they were working long days from early morning until late at night both in the cafe. The reality meant that they were falling out a lot. At work and at home and there was no escape. Their married life was all but gone they were arguing and both utterly exhausted. It could have broken them instead they worked together and split the day between them Andreana doing mornings and Manoli evenings. Now their relationship is stronger than it was before.
The first year in business they’ve tweaked the menu, adding breakfast, some things aren’t on the menu but are offered like a meze, just ask. They realised some mistakes and learnt a lot about themselves as individuals and as a family. The deli did well and they paid off the debt for starting the business in their first season.
Manoli is the man in the kitchen and Andreana is the baker, they make a great team. The diagnosis of MS was hard but the deli has given him a reason to get up in the morning, he loves cooking and loves people.
During the winter you’ll find lots of Greek men popping in for their morning coffee before heading off hunting, fishing or working. I’m sure they call in for the company as much as the food. By lunch time there are a mixture of locals and expats and usually at least one other member of the family who has popped in for something.
What does the future hold?
Next Andreana wants to offer delivery though for that she’ll need to find someone with a bike license who wants to work the summer here. She is hoping to bring on another baker to do speciality and occasion cakes for holidays, birthdays, weddings and christenings.
Their goal now is to make enough for a few more renovations of the building and expand one day to make the cafe bigger.
To take the pictures for this piece Andreana and Manolis made everything off their current menu. Then we invited our friends and local business owners to come and help us eat it all. We had a fabulous afternoon, the food was amazing, it was a lot of hard work but a wonderful spread and great place to have a party.
It was also another time to see her family in action. They all turned out to help and support in every way they could. From serving and making coffees to baby sitting everyone was involved.
As an added extra Andreana made pasteli, known as ‘melekouni’ locally a sweet nibble with sesame, chocolate and almonds they are often found at weddings and christenings. There was also melt in the mouth homemade biscotti and Andreana has promised that she will give me the recipe for those to share with you soon.
What you will find at Penny Pie is a wide range of sandwiches, cakes and salads. In the winter months the variety of cakes are more limited but if you’re going with a group of friends just call in advance and order your favourites. My favourites are the pulled pork and spicy chicken, though the grilled veggie sandwich is great. Then there’s the burger with or without everything. Not forgetting the carrot cake and American cheesecake. If I’m being honest, there’s nothing on the menu I haven’t enjoyed!
Andreana has taken care to source the best ingredients for the deli with the best make of cold cuts Nikas Feugo, the pork and burgers coming from the village butcher, bread from the Pefkos bakery, local vegetables and her aunts honey for baking.
What’s in a name?
Penny Pie is not the usual Greek name for business here, the deli is different to everywhere else but the origins of the name are as unique as the menu. Andreana’s mum is called Paniota which was translated to Penny in Canada. Friends always referred to Andreana’s mum as Penny Pie and one day when she was at school Andreana said to her mum ‘one day I’ll have a store called Penny Pie’. Now she does.
Penny Pie is a wonderful family run American Style Deli with a little bit of a Greek twist. If you’re in the area pop in and say hi to Andreana and Manolis. If there is any American Cheesecake on that day let me know I’ll pop down and join you!
Where to find them:
Penny Pie can be found on the outskirts of Lardos village near between the turning to Pefkos and the garage.
Have you experienced running business in Greece or are you thinking of doing so? What advice would you give people starting out in business today? If you enjoyed the post and found in useful please comment and share. Thank you