In Greek, agora means “open place of assembly.” For millennia, the agora has served as an open-air marketplace, where locals gather, shop, and socialize. The agora isn’t just a grocery store; it’s the heart of the city.
Modeled after the agora, Yoleni’s is a brand-new supermarket on Westminster Street. The storefront opened last month in the historic Tilden-Thurber Building, containing two stories of Greek beverages, produce, and prepared foods.
“I want this to be a social place,” says Alexander Philippides, who opened Yoleni’s with his wife Alexandra Georgiou and their three children. “It should reflect the Greek spirit. The food we want to offer doesn’t exist so much [in the U.S.].”
The average visitor would never have heard of the first Yoleni’s, a seven-story colossus located in Athens, Greece. As Philippides recounts it, Yoleni’s was founded after the financial turmoil of 2008, when Greeks started to rekindle their national identity. The market showcases culinary styles from the nation’s many regions, from truffle oil and grape leaves to spanakopita and mushroom risotto. Meanwhile, the store hosts a range of cooking classes and cultural events.
Georgiou grew up in Providence, and their family moved to Rhode Island about two years ago. The first U.S. location is new, but Philippides and Georgiou already have big plans: they want to fill the store with local artwork and provide outdoor seating in the summer. Yoleni’s English-language website is designed to ship orders across North America, and an interactive map illustrates the distinct regional flavors of Greece.
“It’s a very comprehensive space,” Philippides says. “And I hope to expand to other floors.” 292 Westminster Street