When Greek-born, U.S.-educated Nick Voglis came back to Athens and opened his food business in 1996, he had big plans to launch a new product on the Greek market: the gourmet sandwich.
“Back then, most of the sandwiches on sale in this country were very unhealthy and unappetizing,” he says. “No vegetables or salads inside — just cream cheese, bacon or hot dogs.”
Drawing on his long experience of living abroad, Voglis decided to open a deli bar selling haute cuisine sandwiches made to order, using homemade French-style baguettes and only the finest and freshest ingredients. His dream was to expand the business into a franchise.
It didn’t quite work out like that.
“We still have only the one store. At our peak in 2007, we had 7 employees. Now we’re down to one part-time worker. And sales are down 40 to 50 percent,” Voglis says.
His business has failed to prosper in spite of his intelligence, energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail. He blames Greek bureaucracy, an unpredictable tax system and the economic crisis for the lack of growth in the business. Some of his opinions may prove a little hard for his fellow Greeks to stomach.
On his country’s debt crisis: “It’s happened because Greeks felt all their lives that somebody else will pay for them.”
On Greece’s membership in the eurozone: “We want to be part of a club without implementing the rules of the club.”
On Greece’s public sector: “It’s a major monster which has killed this country.”
On Greece’s creditors: “They want to make an example of us. And they’re right.”
In spite of this scathing assessment, Voglis wouldn’t dream of shutting up shop and leaving his country.
“I’m a very proud Greek. I love this place. And I think it’s very sad what’s taken place here,” he says.