November 25, 2013 | by Mark Lee
The Mediterranean Way
Niko Adamopoulos, Oana Adamopoulos, the Mediterranean Way, gay news, Washington Blade

Niko and Oana Adamopoulos operate The Mediterranean Way gourmet market featuring foodstuffs from Greece, Spain, Italy, France and Tunisia, among other countries. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When a storefront business opened last month on Dupont Circle’s main thoroughfare, it represented more than a contribution to community commerce. Neighborhood residents Niko and Oana Adamopoulos were continuing family traditions.

The Mediterranean Way gourmet market, located two blocks north of the Circle, was borne of the modern young couple missing the products of their life in Greece. They noticed a dearth of food items from the region and were eager to share them.

The bi-level shop, at 1717 Connecticut Ave., N.W., features foodstuffs from Greece, Spain, Italy, France and Tunisia, among other countries. Curious passersby drawn inside discover a tasting table of varietal extra-virgin infused Greek olive oils sourced from a small estate in Lakonia, as well as an array of balsamic vinegars.

Set up European-style, a welcoming ambience is important to professional nutritionist Oana, who manages daily operations. “We want people to feel at home – or in the Mediterranean,” she explains, “and have a chance to explore and ask questions in a warm and natural space.”

“We aren’t a ‘specialty store’,” Niko points out, “but an everyday place where customers can shop for affordable, high-quality and healthful products.” Imported cheeses, feta, Serrano ham, chorizo, meats, pastas, honeys, condiments, whole Greek oregano and natural spices, organic nuts, Greek coffee and brass briki stovepots for brewing, Middle Eastern pickles and Israeli couscous are among a constantly expanding inventory of food and pantry items brimming from crate shelving and table displays.

A section is devoted to imported personal care products containing “mastiha” – an ingredient also infusing honeys and other food items. Cultivated from mastic tree resin on the Greek island of Chios, the substance has long been heralded for topical skin rejuvenation and culinary benefits as a health and digestive aid.

The couple’s focus is on presenting unique foods and organic products from small-scale producers supplying local markets in Europe. Many of these family-run sources are personal acquaintances – some exclusive to the shop. A selection of Mediterranean sandwiches, salads and heat-at-home traditional Greek meals are also available.

Stretching from sunlit windows both back and front highlighting wood flooring, the interior is an inviting environment. A loft-style upper level provides informal seating and features works by local artists and photographers. The front window displays sample gift baskets, stocked with items from specific regions or specially assembled – offering a gift option for the kitchen aficionado.

Born in the U.S. to Greek immigrants, Niko and his family soon after returned to Kalamata on the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece. Surrounded by family and friends operating restaurants and shops, Niko’s youth prompted his entrepreneurial aptitude.

Later returning with his family, Niko studied economics and earned his MBA in international business. He landed in D.C. at the U.S. Department of Labor before relocating to Athens, where he represented artisanal producers of Greek wines and olive oils to commercial buyers around the globe.

Niko met Romanian-Greek Oana when she was living in Bucharest. They stayed in touch during her stint managing café operations in Italy’s Tuscany region and married on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Moving to D.C. two years ago when Niko returned to the Labor Department, they developed their business plan. Niko joins Oana evenings and on weekends at the shop.

Niko volunteered in Athens promoting cultural diversity and the rights of HIV, LGBT, and other disenfranchised populations. That experience created a goal of donating a percentage of profits next year to customer-selected human rights organizations.

The pleasure the owners derive from operating a small business enterprise is personified in Niko’s observation that “we’re successful if we’re doing what we enjoy.”

Both are already true.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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