If you’ve been walking around Collingwood Downtown lately, you’ll certainly notice that our historic downtown offers a wide and diverse range of dining options to choose from and one of our favourites is Fig & Feta Greek Market & Eatery.
Fig & Feta is owned and operated by Bessie and Richard Lewis who are both hands on in the daily operation of this family business. The restaurant started off four years ago in a smaller location on Hurontario Street with just 10 seats. “When our kids were in high school, their friends would ride their bikes to our small little café to grab some take-out for lunch. It would warm my heart that they were spending their lunch money on good healthy food instead of fast food.” remembers Bessie. Now in their current location at 65 Hurontario Street, they can accommodate 90 patrons inside with space for an additional 50 people on their patio.
Bessie, whose parents Kathy (Katina) and Tom (Athanasious) Markou are first generation immigrants from Greece, has basically grown up in the restaurant business along with her siblings, George, Jim and Gina. Now the tradition continues on as her own kids, Sammy, Katina and Thomas have been known to roll up their sleeves and lend a helping hand at this busy dining destination.
Bessie who absolutely loves cooking, learned everything she knows from her mother, grandmother and aunts. “If you’re born into a Greek family, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s the heart of every Greek household and that’s where we gather to celebrate pretty much everything. Greeks don’t eat to live…we live to eat.” says Bessie with a smile. “I’ve taken our traditional family recipes and added my own modern, healthy twist. We want you to come into our restaurant and feel like you’re dining with family in a warm and inviting environment whether you’re dining solo or with your family or a group of friends for a celebration.”
Before opening up Fig & Feta, Bessie worked part time as a server in a number of local establishments which gave her an opportunity to keep working while she and Richard were raising their children. “It was great, it gave me the opportunity to get out of the house, make some money, gain skill sets working in different types of restaurants…everything from the hustle and bustle of a busy breakfast place to finer dining and most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to connect with people. I love offering great customer service and I always took ownership of my section as if it were my own restaurant, even when I was working for other people. I took tremendous pride in making sure that every customer was taken care of to the best of my ability.”
Today Fig & Feta employs a team of 25 people lead by Richard and Bessie. “The number one thing about leading a team is that you have to treat your staff with the same respect that you would like to receive and also demonstrate by example with an excellent work ethic. That in turn translates to dedicated staff that will serve your customers properly and be loyal to you. If you treat your staff properly, they will stay with you. I also love working with my husband Richard, he’s the best business partner anyone could ask for.” adds Bessie.
The Marketplace at Fig & Feta has recently expanded as that part of the business has grown significantly over the past two years, due to customer demand. Everything available is either made in-house or imported from Greece including a fine selection of Greek wine available by the glass or to take home by the bottle. “The vision for the Marketplace is all Richard. His many years of retail merchandising experience definitely came into play when we were putting this all together.” notes Bessie.
Also well known for their catering, Fig & Feta can pretty much accommodate any size of gathering from a small intimate gathering to a huge backyard bash.
Fun fact: Bessie’s favourite menu items are the Beet and Feta Salad topped with Chicken Gyros, Lamb Souvlaki or the Moussaka.
Greek lesson: Inside the dining room at Fig & Feta there are two blackboards offering a lesson in basic Greek phrases. Something fun and educational to do while you’re enjoying some delicious appetizers.