Business in Blossom
t the foot of Mount Psiloritis, Costas Fragiadakis teaches his children, just as his grandfather once taught him, to tend to their beehives and harvest their bees’ flavorful honey. Produced in the mountains of Crete, a luscious habitat of aromatic flora like wild thyme, sage and pine, this honey is rich in vitamins and nutrients and is bottled without any additives.
Honey like this may seem like it’s thousands of miles away—and it is. But you can also get it right here in Pittsburgh, without even leaving the comfort of your home, through Anthos Premium Greek Foods’ online store.
“I moved here three years ago,” says Jo Frangou, Parkridge Lane, owner of Anthos. “I remember the first time I tried honey. I got some from Whole Foods—the bottle said ‘local,’ ‘real honey!’ The minute I tried it, my eyes got huge. My husband was there. I said ‘I can’t do this. You need to get me Greek honey!’”
Jo and her brother, Tassos, are from Athens. Jo was a television executive in Greece, where she produced and wrote her own shows, including the Greek version of Ugly Betty, and Tassos went into banking and finance. Tassos wound up marrying Jo’s best friend, Ellie, a fashion designer and forecaster. Jo fell in love with a baker in New York City, Devin, and they got married, moved back to Athens and had their son, Elliot.
But now they’re all here in Pittsburgh, and they are pursuing their shared dream together.
“I’ve known Ellie since my teen years,” says Jo.
“We’ve been friends forever, and we’ve been dreaming about this for a long time … everything we have done these past couple years has been about this bakery that we dreamt of opening.”
The idea of the Anthos bakery nearly came to fruition in March. The group was ready to sign a lease on a space downtown when the COVID-19 lockdowns took effect. But rather than be deterred, they decided to make the best of a bad situation.
“Because of COVID, we started importing. We couldn’t open our store, so we said ‘let’s go online,’” says Jo. “It’s just our team, we didn’t use any professionals. It’s been very organic. We waited for a few things to open so we could get our permits for selling and distributing foods. And then we launched our business.”
“It has been so great,” adds Ellie, who was in Greece in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her twin sons, Giannis and Dmitri, could not join Tassos at their Shadowlawn Avenue home until the restrictions lifted in the summer. “One of the greatest things is being in Mt. Lebanon. We got the word out on Facebook, word-of-mouth and through friends who have been amazing and supported us … When we [fulfill our] orders, we just deliver in person. We love introducing our neighbors to all of these new tastes. It has been very meaningful and sweet for us.”
And it turns out Anthos, which means “Blossom” in Greek, is exactly what people wanted. While there are some specialty Greek stores in the area and large online retailers, the Anthos team has managed to find a niche by creating a distribution, and in many cases exclusive distribution, for small and family-run Greek businesses and farmers. They are already fulfilling orders from all over the United States, and they had to move their warehouse from Greensburg to Lawrenceville to accommodate the demand.
Right now, the online store sells items like honey, olive oil, jams, rusks, baklava and cookies. Some of these products can also be found in local stores, including Stamoolis Brothers in the Strip District, as Anthos is starting to build a local distribution network. They are hoping to soon expand their offerings, by adding such products as olives, tahini and even water from Greece.
“We’re trying to find products all over Greece. It’s an ongoing process,” says Ellie. “All our products are also very healthy. Nowadays, things like immunity boosters and antioxidants are important … Many of the suppliers we work with promote this kind of healthy [eating].”
Emboldened by their success, they’ve put the original Anthos dream—to open a Greek bakery—back on the table. They’re not ready to share full details, but they hope to sign another lease soon—this time in Castle Shannon, on the corner of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard.
“There are many, many pastries we are excited about. You will find a lot of bread [at the bakery]—a lot of specialty breads from Greece. But also French breads. It would be a shame to hold back and deprive people of Devin’s baking skills, even if the products aren’t Greek,” says Jo.