Amid the crisis, some young people invest

In theory, everything seems to be against them: the economic environment, the depressed market, even Athens itself, with the ever more frequent incidence of violence. The four young people featured here have decided to start up businesses in the fields of culture, fashion and catering at a time when all the signs are negative. They took the plunge, and the difference between them and many of us is that they believe in what they do, and that inner voice leads them on less certain paths. They know that in times of crisis it may be better to act than to just sit in a corner waiting for the worst. Eleftheria Arapoglou will remember this spring. Just yesterday, Digitaria, the clothing firm she set up with Stavros Karelis, held the launch party for its first store. Not in Kolonaki, but in the heart of London, on Berwick Street in Soho. She never thought of backing out because of the crisis. «We translate what looks like a negative phase into a moment where there are not only losses but also opportunities.» She explained, «For a start, the label we have created will carry only exclusive contemporary garments that are well made and in good fabrics at very good prices. In the crisis people are less willing to pay over the top for clothing and that will probably work to our advantage.» Inventing miracles At 5 Normanou, a small street in Monastiraki, Giorgos Georgakopoulos greets us amid rubble, dust and laborers going to and fro. The humble old wooden door conceals a small marvel that will soon (May 29) belong to the entire city. Georgakopoulos, who made his name with the Cheap Art project, has now joined forces with Charalambos Dermatis and Yiannis Karykas to create the Taf artplex, in an old Athenian courtyard. As well as an art gallery and studio, Taf will also have a cafe-bar open every day. «We wouldn’t have gone ahead had we not known that there was a market out there for such an investment,» he said. As for the crisis, Georgakopoulos believes that you can’t sit in an armchair waiting for miracles: «At such times, we have to invent the miracles ourselves.» I came across Pango’s, at 5 Zoodochou Pigis Street, by chance one Saturday morning. I didn’t expect to find an open-hearted, neo-Mediterranean bistro just a few steps away from Academias, on the fringe of Exarchia. I went up and started reading the prices: espresso and tea, 1.50 euros, cappuccino 1.50, and fresh orange juice, 2.50. Ilias Gogos, a chef by trade, is the heart and soul of Pango’s. He and his partners – his brother Nikos and Giorgos Panteloukas – wanted to show «that coffee and a snack need not mean poor quality and disproportionately high prices. We make our salads in front of the customer; our cheese pies and spinach pies are always handmade.» Their policy of low prices had nothing to do with the crisis: «It’s our strategic choice.» From jobless to publishing Last December, Thanos Malliaras was among the first to experience the looming crisis. After working for many years at a publishing company he found himself unemployed, but he didn’t sit around being idle. The first two titles from his new publishing house (PS Editions) are already in circulation. The company will support the literary debuts of young Greek writers. He started up the company with Petros Sarimpelas. «Yes, the horizon looks cloudy at first,» he admits, «but established publishers are issuing fewer titles and aiming at a more commercial market, the result being that young writers consider it an honor to be included in their uncertain publishing plans. There couldn’t be a better moment to set up a new publishing house which, in a time of crisis, has nothing but vision and expectations. All the more so when it focuses on magical realism, on texts, heroes and readers that are solidly grounded in reality but that manage to find escape routes here and there.»

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