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Entrepreneurship in crisis: the smell of Greece imported to Vienna
Sotirios Kostoulas came to Vienna in 2012 looking for opportunities. Georgios Katsaris, owner of a small chain of bakeries in Athens, only wanted to come by for a few days to buy a flour mill, but then opened another branch in Vienna. Athina Gkoritsa even had two jobs at home, but longed for her Sotirios. Together with the Greek bakery and delicatessen shop Pnyka Bakery in Vienna's Landskrongasse, all three finally created a flourishing meeting place for Greeks, Greece enthusiasts and connoisseurs.
Inventive in times of crisis
Sotirios and I know each other from our hometown Joannina in Epirus. He went to Vienna five years ago, as we all know, the circumstances in Greece were not exactly rosy. In Vienna he could easily find work in Greek restaurants. I, on the other hand, studied food science in Kafalonia. To finance my studies, I worked as a teacher in an English school and in the evenings in a bar by the sea. After it became clear that life in Greece was not going to get any easier and that we finally wanted to live together, I decided to move to Sotirios in Vienna.
Greece feeling in Vienna
Also about five years ago, Georgios Kotsaris traveled to Vienna to buy a professional grain mill for his medium-sized bakery in Athens. During his stay, he met many people who raved about Greek products and welcomed him so enthusiastically that he decided to open his fourth branch in Vienna. It went really well, but running it from Athens turned out to be time-consuming.
So I arrived in Vienna in July 2013 and we thought about what we should do for a living together. It quickly became clear: we wanted to do something of our own. We got to know the Pnyka branch through the Greek community. We tried to talk to Georgios Kotsaris, who was immediately interested.
Little by little, we developed a model that has almost only advantages for both sides. We started to work in a partnership that works a bit like an atypical franchise: he was happy to have someone who was always on site and we had the advantage of taking over a business that was already established.
We kept the Pnyka name and product range, and received thorough training in the bakery in Athens and here in Vienna. We bear all the costs for this and have the greatest possible scope for decision-making in order to expand the offer according to our own ideas. Because only with pastries and pastries of all kinds we would probably not be able to stay afloat, because the margins are rather low there. We are also not allowed to make bread ourselves at this location, but only to bake it, which is out of the question for us.
Flexible product range
We regularly receive our range of baked goods, raw materials and ingredients in various ways from the Pnyka headquarters in Athens. The shorter shelf life also comes by air freight. Of course we have a lot of products that stay fresh for a few days without any problems: Paximadi or similar dry-baked types of bread and various biscuits have a long tradition in Greece.
But of course the freshly baked specialties with the typical aromas of cinnamon, clove, honey, raisins and sesame or chocolate are best. When these smells penetrate the street from the oven, hardly anyone can pass by without sticking their nose into the shop. In the meantime, many Austrian customers have been asking impatiently about our galactobureko made from real puff pastry and organic goat's milk or the orange cake with olive oil, yoghurt and cinnamon, if we haven't had them in the showcase for a day or two, not just the numerous Greeks in exile.
Market research at the counter
After all, the Greeks in exile make up almost half of our customers: With us you will find the familiar smells of home, but also many products for which there is not so much demand in Vienna that they would be marketed by large importers. When a customer asks about a certain product, we try to bring it to Vienna. If others like it, too, it will be added to the range.
And after every summer vacation, new casual customers become regulars, for example when they discover that you can get a cappuccino freddo or frappé here, just like in Greece. Employees and saleswomen from the area are also increasingly among our customers. The Greeks have known the quick snack in between for ages, Tiropita - a puff pastry with cheese and kouluri - the crispy sesame rings - are ideal for it.
The composition of our clientele is slowly shifting in favor of the "real" Viennese, but the Viennese Greeks are still our most reliable mainstay. Right from the start you supported our idea of improving the image of the Greeks through consistent, customer-oriented work. We have also repeatedly received orders for catering, in private circles or at cultural events. And because Austrians with an affinity for Greece often come to them, our fame has steadily increased.
Since we cannot afford advertising, word-of-mouth and Facebook are our main channels of communication. We have put a lot of time and work into the company over the past two years, which is now paying off. We haven't gotten rich yet, but we are very happy with our success.
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