The Ergon is a family grocery launched with a different thought 10 years ago, still evolving, and which three years ago opened in Thessaloniki’s center.
A few months later, it opened its first grocery appetizers in Halkidiki and late last year made its mark in London. The menu is by chef Dimitris Skarmoutsos with goods from the company.
Giorgos Douzis, one of the owners, told The National Herald: “The Ergon launched late 2007 with a product, the honey from Thassos. Before 2007 we had a company that represents small producers from all over Greece and trying to sell them in the Greek market.”
He added: “When showed a need to sell these products abroad and in various markets, including supermarkets and large chains, we saw that we could not do it, because there was no bar code or English on their labels. So, we got the idea to build a brand name Ergon, which collects small producers, making them the label and that the product can be sold abroad. But not to big chains as subsequently we changed our thinking. The thought was in several markets to Europe for beginning but trying to organize it a little bit. Thus was born the idea”.
They began, then, having honey as the only product, but, he said “Into a year we created with producers, products like pulses, pasta, jams, fruit preserves. Somewhere in 2011, when we had 150 codes to products, we got the idea to make a grocery. We said that can feed an entire grocery store, and so was created the first Ergon Greek Grocery.”
He said that, “In the summer of that year, we made with Dimitris Skarmoutsos a menu with these products and so, created the tavern next to the grocery store. He used products of grocery store and so we created some appetizers”.
What resulted too was the idea and they decided to dare such a business move in the food trade.
“Something had to do. I am still studying Mathematics, my brother finished his studies in Information Technology and we have grown up in food. My grandfather had a sausage-brasserie in Thessaloniki and my father was working for years in a multinational company which was engaged in food. So, in the whole of our lives, we had combined the job with the food. This is how the ‘virus’ passed to us,” he said.
Within these few years they have managed to set up stores throughout Greece and beyond. “We currently have seven stores. Six in Greece, one in abroad-in London-and we have plans for some more until the end of the season,” he said.
The question that always arises in these cases is whether there is interest in Greek products.
George Douzis said it this way: “Abroad, people care too much about Greek products. We have too many tourists that the first thing that is left is what they ate in Greece and would love to have this home.
“ In addition, from our tourist shops, but the store in London, we see that they were waiting for us in general, as Greek cuisine, which is a little outside misunderstood. They have in their minds as Greek cuisine, tzatziki, moussaka, souvlaki. These are a very great piece of Greek cuisine, but that’s not all. We have, for example, and Greek fava beans, pasta, legumes, cheese, sausages, meats. We try to educate them that we have more products. The Greek cuisine is not only souvlaki and tzatziki”.
He added: “Interesting goal, but the first thought is that the specificity of these products will probably makes it difficult to attract those who are not accustomed of such flavors.
“The combination they have done, however, managed to “facilitate the foreigners to bring close to these products, from the moment that there is a restaurant. What we made in London is an appetizers-store, so that test the product, because they go to a restaurant and they have the ability to buy what they like from the grocery store”.
When they decided to proceed with the venture, the difficulties were “too many, financial and functional. We started four people with a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of traveling; we made it and gradually overtake them”.
For so many products, however, they needed many producers, finding them all over Greece.
“We have producers in Evros, in Alonissos in Crete, everywhere. In the beginning, we find the producers making trips. Whether going about it, to find them, or making travel for vacation. Thus, we combine both.
“We went to Lefkada in Egklouvi were looking of lentils. Or we went to Alonissos, to find Alonissos’ tuna. Now, we are pleased that producers call us and tell us ‘make this jam in Crete, in this village, would you be interested?’ So, it has changed the way, although it is traveling, but now the producers find us”.
Having already been developed enough, the plans never stop, not even at the border. “The following plans are for Ergon stores in every European capital. We started with one in London, which is our new ‘kid’, and in the next projects is another in Paris,” he said.
They know from the inside that it is not an easy process. “It’s very difficult,” he added. “But we have learned to operate effectively in difficulties”.