Coffee Nation Coffee Roasters was set to become the Starbucks of Greece with franchise locations sprinkled across the country. But the dream of England native Kokkolis Konstantinos was shattered by the country’s financial crisis of 2009, and his flagship store in Pangrati remains the only one of its kind.
“We wanted to make a brand name and make a chain of this kind of store,” said Konstantinos, 50. “But in the following of the crisis, it was difficult to make it so there is only one shop. This shop.”
Konstantinos is one of many Greek owners whose business was affected. With rising income taxes, it’s been difficult for Konstantinos to recover financially. Yet the popularity of his imported, high-quality teas and chocolates soften his business woes. International blends of coffee, including Colombian espresso and Ethiopian mocha, along with flavored liqueurs and sweet biscuits, are favorites among European tourists and local residents alike.
“There isn’t a specific type of customer,” said Konstantinos. “We serve customers of all ages, of all languages and of all nationalities.”
While business has been steady compared to neighboring shops now on the brink of closing, Konstantinos is just as frustrated with the government as are those more severely affected by the crisis. The weak Greek economy barely made it through the 2008 financial crisis, sending distress signals to its European neighbors. Seeking financial assistance from foreign investors, Greece had no choice but to agree to place their economy under scrutiny and dramatically reduce public spending, increase taxes, privatize state assets and cut benefits. Like many of the anti-government protesters who have marched through Syntagma Square in Central Athens, Konstantinos believes that neither the Greek Parliament nor officials from the European Union are doing their part to revive the economy.
“There isn’t solidarity between the partners,” said Konstantinos. “All the things are about money and there isn’t a local culture that they believe must be there. I don’t like the European Union and believe that Europe as a whole is in a very big crisis.”
Konstantinos hopes to expand his business into other European markets. It’s not as easy, however, as it seems. Since Greece joined the Eurozone in 2001 and launched its currency in 2002, inflation of the euro has become a deterrent for investors and customers.
“It’s a kind of money that provokes a lot of problems in Greece. It hasn’t made it easier for our products to go to foreign countries,” said Konstantinos. “I do fear the possibility of losing business but I believe that the majority of shop owners have a lot of fear.”
Click through the gallery below to see photographs of Coffee Nation Coffee Roasters.