Kiosk in Athens, Greece


There were several reasons Alisa Grifo wanted to take her Kiosk co-founder Marco Romeny to Greece for their newest themed collection of everyday objects, which launches today. But the most pressing was the fact that Greece’s ongoing economic woes have shuttered scores of small businesses, and continue to do so the longer they persist. “It felt like half of Athens was closed,” says Grifo, who traveled there with Romeny in early October. “We would find something and try to contact the manufacturer and their phone would be disconnected. We felt an urgency to go now before more and more disappeared.” The irony is that Greece is also the last collection for the couple before they’re forced to pull their own disappearing act of sorts, thanks to economics of an entirely different kind — real estate developers are evicting them from the building Kiosk has occupied for 8 years, and until they find a suitable space to reopen in, their beloved, magical shop will be online-only as of March 1.

The shuttering of their second-floor storefront was another good excuse for Grifo to finally make a pilgrimage to the country she’s been meaning to return to since she last visited, when she was 17. She and Romeny first spent a week in Athens being taken around by artist Sofia Stevi and designer Christina Kotsilelou of Greece is For Lovers, and then they spent a few days on a remote Peloponnese island. But although they found the bulk of their 43-piece collection in Athens, Grifo says the objects they brought back represent reflect a unique characteristic of Greek culture: “Something like 70% of the Greek population lives in greater Athens, but I assume because everyone has such a connection the villages their families come from, there’s still so much influence from agricultural life,” she says. “So a lot of what we bought there are things you’d find in the countryside, like the olive harvester (pictured above) or the jug for bottling your own wine.”

Those are the kinds of geographically unique quirks that make the new collection — Kiosk’s first country-specific launch since it did the Netherlands a year ago — so strong. “Greece is so Greek, you know?” laughs Grifo, who was kind enough to prepare a travel diary, below, for Sight Unseen. “It’s exactly what you’d imagine. It’s the strangest place. I was so happy there.”
“This kitchen store was so packed it was like I was in India again. Marco gave up and went to take a smoke with his buddy at the rope shop just nearby. The kitchen store was in Psirri, a neighborhood that’s all hardware by day and nightclubs by night. It’s past its heyday and seedy in a cozy way.”
“You know those delicious Greek pies? I sure do now! You roll them out on boards like these. We really wanted to bring the boards (and the pies) back with us, but the size and weight was too much for us to include. Still, looking at them now I may try to get some. Here they look like boobs.”
“Speaking of boobs, the 80-year-old maker of the trunks we’re looking at in the photo had a very large nudie shot in his store downstairs. I felt his trunks were interesting, but not for us in the end. The diehard feminist in me was thrown off by the poster — I had to get out of there. That’s the artist Sofia Stevi with me, she’s amazing and is helping us with everything in Greece.”
“A far-out olive cutter to score the olive before you put it in brine. Note the markings on the olives showing the cut marks. Yum, Greek olives! I can’t get enough!”
“Babis Vovos was one developer behind people exiting the center of Athens, a movement which began in the ’80s and more recently, due to the crisis, has accelerated. Babis placed his name prominently on the top of his buildings, much as they did in ancient Greece. And just like the Greek leaders, Babis had his fall from fame: Last year he was arrested for tax evasion. His firm’s portfolio is valued at 1.2 billion euros. Amazing…”
“On the right is our adorable guide Christina Kotsilelou, from the design firm Greece is For Lovers. Here she is in the millinery shop called Χ & Μ Αgelopoulou at 5 Agias Eirinis Square. The owner was less than talkative, as you can judge by the image, but the place is beautiful. Marco was not thrilled by the ladies’ goods but he did get jazzed up by the souvlaki place on the square called Kostas, which is supposedly the best in town.”
“Deadstock buttons in the millinery shop. How they acquired so much stock I have no idea; and I thought our situation at Kiosk was overwhelming!”
“Here’s the group of us discussing the merits of Greek wool and cotton and underwear for men. Marco takes his folding seriously; do note the black bikini models to his right. I hope I don’t find those in his drawer! They’re not in the Kiosk collection, FYI.”
“Architecture in the shopping center at Kifisia, a well-to-do suburb of northern Athens. I see inspiration from the Olympic torch and Expo ’67. How can you not love the color combination? Who says blue is Greece’s color? Yellow is everywhere. Around the corner is the Bowling Center, which has been entertaining young Athenians for decades.”
“Outside of the city center in Kifisia — but worth the trip if you are into sweets — is Varsos, which has been in operation for 120 years. When you eat there you know why. In Greece, patisseries produce and sell milk products. So it’s possible to binge on yogurt, rice pudding, and cakes in the same place, which is really convenient. The interior is inspiring, too, as you can see.”
“Our table at Varsos, with rice pudding, spinach pie, cakes, and something I had never tried called moustalevria, a pudding made from grape must and flour with nuts on top (top right). It’s produced at the beginning of the grape harvest. You either like it or you don’t — our table was divided.”
“Pistachio bars on the right and peanut bars on the left. It was easy to choose, although I usually lean heavily to the left. Regardless, we’ll have the pistachio bars at Kiosk as part of the collection.”
“Other items in the collection include these oinometra cups, a past fixture in every taverna: blue for water, red for wine, yellow for oil. Apparently the yellow was originally used for gasoline. It’s an iconic Greek object.”
“I’m looking into the similarity of these cozy slippers to the shoe called tsarouhi, which the Greek Presidential Guards wear. The pompom was a relatively late edition to tsarouhi, which come from Byzantine times. It’s meant to waterproof the front, likely a handy feature with small children.”
“I have no idea if you can find these nightlights in every Greek house, but I did however see many, many different nightlight models on the market, so I assume they’re popular. To save on energy, I use ours to light our hallway at night. In a way, it makes me feel like Santa is coming soon, or that I’m in A Christmas Carol — I can’t explain exactly why.”
“Sifters can be found in all sorts of places around Greece, and they come in a variety of sizes. One common use is for making trahanas, a delicious blend of whey and cracked wheat now found in every soup I make.”

Click here to purchase the items from Kiosk’s new Greece collection, which will be on view at their 95 Spring Street store in New York until March 1.