PITTSBURGH – The Greek-American community is filled with businesses whose success is driven by hard work and out-of-the box thinking. Chris and Chrysoula Balouris at Salonika Imports, located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, are classic examples of both, and they want to apply that formula to helping Greece weather the economic crisis.
“The Balourises and one of their employees, Sotiris Aggelou, are encouraging Pittsburghers to branch out and try more Greek products to help funnel dollars” to Greece,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Chris said: “The Greek situation is difficult. The everyday Greek is afraid of the unknown.”
From the time they arrived in America at the turn of the 20th century, Greek businesses distinguished themselves both for their innovativeness and their dedication to authenticity.
The Balouris family blends the two by promoting the old ways as the new way.
For example, they want to introduce their fellow Americans to genuine gyro.
“The gyro sandwich that’s so familiar to you — composed of slices cut from a cylindrical loaf of meat on a spit — isn’t the same thing Greeks are eating when they order the pita-wrapped sandwich in the motherland,” the Post-Gazette reported.
“A more authentic Greek gyro,” says Mr. Balouris, “is made with pork shavings or even chicken thighs. One such version debuted on a recent Friday for lunch service at Salonika: a gyro stuffed with pork curlicues with crisped edge, the Gazette noted.
“There’s no filler and it’s gluten free…This version is much healthier than the one you usually get here, and as a result, you feel better after eating it,” Chris said
He hopes some of the approximately 50 restaurants Salonika supplies in Western Pennsylvania and other locations will adopt their gyros. “We know it will take some time to educate consumers,” he said.
The family just enjoyed their annual trip to Greece. They visited relatives in Athens and Crete, and they also have relatives in Evia, Peloponnese and Patmos.
Chris spoke of “his relationships with Greek artisans that he has built as an importer over the past 25 years, to the Post-Gazette.
“These are the folks that have been hit hardest by the economic crisis in Greece,” he said and he wants to help them expand.
“I meet with these companies to not only purchase products, but to generate ideas on how to grow their business in the United States…We’re currently working on a unique concept that would incorporate Greek culinary expertise and apply it to the U.S market,” he explained.
“Salonika, at 3509 Smallman St., has been operating in the Strip District since 1994. Balouris purchased it in 2006. All of his employees are from Greece. Sixty to 80 percent of the goods sold there are imported from Greece, depending upon the time of the year and the stock. The rest of the inventory is mostly from Turkey, Bulgaria or Spain,” the Gazette reported.