This article is part of “Greek New York’s Finest,” our series dedicated to supporting Greek American-owned businesses in our home base of New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This series of unique stories aims to bring these businesses more attention, publicity and support.
After years of working in Manhattan restaurants and saving tens of thousands of dollars, Athens native Nikolaos Lamprou was ready to fulfill his lifelong dream of opening his own Greek food joint in 2020.
Those aspirations seemed to be in dire risk once the COVID-19 pandemic struck hard in New York City in late winter 2020.
Until Lamprou decided to take a leap of faith.
“We opened during the pandemic and during this global lockdown,” Lamprou told The Pappas Post. “I decided to take the risk and open my operation. Thank God, I took the risk and it was totally worth it.”
The result? Niko’s Souvlaki, a new bustling spot in the heart of Astoria, Queens, which has seen thriving business since opening on April 6 — the same week when coronavirus cases were expected to peak in the city.
Daily orders began at a smaller but respectable level — a few dozen per day — but now the store has become a neighborhood go-to for takeout and delivery with as many as 200 orders on weekend days.
Photographs / Darden Livesay, The Pappas Post
The sudden uptick in business forced Lamprou to hire additional staff which includes friends of friends and a helping hand from his grandmother while she visited from Greece.
Government-imposed restrictions on indoor seating have negatively affected the store financially, but Lamprou says an outpouring of local support has kept his business profitable.
“The community supported us from day one,” the owner said. “It makes us feel so great and unique. We feel blessed for the positive reception, repeat customers and general vibe of community love.”
Lamprou began to gather local support in March when he circled the neighborhood to deliver 1,000 paper menus on a door-to-door basis.
The Greek native took serious financial risk by opening a restaurant at a time when thousands of nonessential businesses in New York City remained closed due to the pandemic.
But his first act of business wasn’t even for-profit.
As hospital beds filled throughout the city, Lamprou sent 100 souvlaki sandwiches to doctors and nurses at the nearby Mt. Sinai Hospital.
Niko’s Souvlaki is located on 19-33 Ditmars Blvd.
Video footage by Darden Livesay; video editing by Maria Wilson.
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