“Bring back Artopolis” is the mood among faithful patrons who long to savor the delicious pastries and be welcomed by the soul of the bakery, Regina Katopodis, and her staff.
The Astoria neighborhood staple abruptly closed on March 22 due to the COVID-19 lockdown in New York City and has yet to re-open due to an ongoing legal battle between Katopodis and the bakery’s majority shareholders.
As the Artopolis’ owner carries on her fight in court, the store’s closure continues to leave a void in the lives of customers both locally and nationally.
“A day doesn’t go by where I’m not approached by a customer who asks about when Artopolis will reopen, adding how they and their families miss the bakery,” Katopodis told The Pappas Post. “Artopolis’ reach was far and wide. There was nothing like it anywhere in America.”
Since opening in 2004, the wholesale business serviced more than 100 cafes and bakeries in the Tri-state area including Avra, Corrado Bread and Pasteries, Old World Taverna, Milos, MP Taverna and Kefi. Balducci’s ranchise stores throughout the United States carried Artopolis sweets and baked goods.
Katopodis and Artopolis were a beacon in the community; the establishment, open for 17 years, was more than a bakery selling pastries — it was an embassy for grandparents, housewives and hipsters alike: A Greek home away from home.
Regular customers came from New Jersey, Pensilvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Busloads of church members would visit from Greek parishes in the tri-state area.
On any given day, passersby at the bakery included elderly Greek gentlemen with their worry beads discussing politics, housewives enjoying a tiropita or koulouri and catching up on gossip and schoolmates dropping by for a coffee and light snack after classes.
Artopolis serviced all parts of Greek life from birth to death by providing sweets for rituals such as baptisms, birthdays and weddings as well as “koliva” for funerals.
“How my family and I miss Artopolis,” said Alexandra Mitsakis, who serves as director of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce. “Returning to New York after living in Greece for 25 years, it always felt like home and everything I bought — from the New Year’s vasilopita for my family to the tiropites, koulouri, tsoureki and the daily bread — it all tasted like it came from the corner bakery by my home in Athens.”
Mitsakis said that her visits to friends in Manhattan, Riverdale or Bronxville always yielded requests for her to bring them sweets from Artopolis — “a necessary stop” before seeing friends or family.
“For my godsons, it was a must to buy the chocolate Easter eggs which Regina always wrapped in decorative cellophane and ribbons, making it look so festive,” Mitsakis said. “We will never find something to replace Artopolis or Regina. She was also available with an ear of comfort.”
Artopolis maintained Greek authenticity even beyond its baked goods and boasted a neoclassical-style interior which was made in Greece and shipped in two 40-feet containers to the port of New York.
Katopodis said architects from all over the world would visit the store having learned about its well-loved design.
The stories of Artopolis’ reach are endless.
A church in South Carolina which ordered 1,000 tsourekia loaded up their own truck to ship the order all the way from Astoria to its front door.
A church in Hawaii, Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Pacific, ordered vasilopita to sell for New Year’s Eve.
Bougatsa was shipped from Artopolis to Juniper, Alaska.
A 10-pound order of kourambiedes and malomakarona was placed for the 90th birthday of a client’s father. The order cost $300 in overnight shipping to California.
A doctor hired a refrigerated truck to ship 3,000 mini pastries to his niece’s wedding in Ohio.
The Greek Embassy in Washington D.C. enlisted Artopilis to cater its yearly function after opening to the public.
During the United Nations’ Greek month food celebration, Artopolis diples, malomakarona and kourambiedes were served in the delegates dining room.
Wedding cakes were ordered for the neighbouring Bangladeshi and Bulgarian communities. Custom-ordered baskets were designed for the brides with the famous amygdalota, almond paste, egg whites and confectioners sugar.
Holidays were bonanza times with approximately 3,000 eggs dyed for Easter and more than 5,000 vasilopites baked for the new year — preparations that took two months.
Artopolis was also known for its charity work, supporting literacy, cancer and other medical causes. The establishment donated annually to the Queen’s Centers for Progress’ event at the Terrace On the Park, the Hugh Jackman Foundation at the Oriental Hotel and Kat’s Ribbon of Hope for breast cancer treatment.
Before closing in March, Katopodis donated the bakery’s remaining food inventory to the medical personnel at Mount Sinai Hospital in Astoria.
Neighborhood locals Andy and Dina Boutsikakis described Artopolis as an expression of “everything Astoria and everything Greek” and “a true gem that will be sorely missed” — particularly because of who ran the store.
“What really made Artopolis an instant Astoria staple was Regina Katopidis. If you spent one minute with her, you immediately knew why Artopolis was such a success,” Andy said. “You could hear the pride and passion in her voice when she spoke about every item she created or every employee that worked with her.”
“If you were as fortunate as I was to have more lengthy conversations with Regina, you were able to share passionate and emotional stories of family, faith and her proud Greek heritage,” Dina said. “And it was that passion that went into, and was, everything Artopolis.”
Featured image credit: Noah Devereaux via The Infatuation
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