Indie Oxford Interview: The Souvlaki Brothers
As their new shop in The Covered Market proves to be becoming a great success for The Souvlaki Brothers, we catch up with Panny to talk about his love of Greek food, and why he chose this historic location for their first permanent store.
Tell me about yourself and how The Souvlaki Brothers started.
The Souvlaki Brothers was started in response to not being able to get a truly authentic version of our favourite food in the UK! Being fortunate enough to visit family regularly in Greece, we wanted to give people an experience of the food and service we enjoy there!
What does food mean to you?
Food has always been much more than simply functional for me. Growing up, the kitchen was always the centre of the house. Food brought the family together and it punctuates a lot of my childhood. In fact one of my earliest memories is of the smell of food in Greece, and it’s amazing how many customers say our food takes them back to holidays in Greece!
What makes a perfect souvlaki?
In our opinion, freshly prepared and marinated skewers, authentic fluffy Greek pitta, fresh vine tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, homemade tzatziki, a sprinkle of crispy frites, lemon juice and paprika! In the right proportions of course!
What has been the best part of starting The Souvlaki Brothers?
Seeing the business continue to grow and blossom is amazing. Our product is a fairly new trend within the UK and we are one of only a handful to open permanent premises. It can be daunting to undertake the financial risks of starting a new business, but to see it survive and then grow, gives an enormous sense of pride, and also gratitude to everyone who eats with us!
How did you make the decision to open your store in The Covered Market?
We had been appearing at a number of Oxford events and customers were asking where they could find us – we needed to find an answer! The Covered Market remains the epicentre of local independent business in Oxford and it was always a location that we used and liked. As a relatively young business with a new product, we were grateful for the support from Oxford City Council in finding us our first premises.
What can we expect from your new store?
Great food and great service – just like Greece! Souvlaki has and always will be the focus of our business , and the shop will allow us to expand to an even wider range of fillings, which will be making guest appearances soon… We are also building our deli range, in response to requests from customers – so do please come and tell us if there’s something you’d like to see on our shelves!
What aspect of your work never ceases to make you excited?
Customer feedback is one thing that we love and to see regular faces appearing again and again is really energising – it means we must be doing some things right! Three years in I genuinely still get excited when I see our Souvlaki going out the door!
What is the best advise you have ever received about being an independent business owner?
Keep calm and carry on! And also “specialise , specialise, specialise” – there’s a lot of noise and choice out there for consumers and people want clarity on your product and brand . Also, make things personal and provide a really memorable experience – that’s why people shop independent!
When you’re not making souvlaki, what do you love to cook?
I genuinely love cooking Greek food! At the moment we’re working our way through a book of traditional cookery from Chios, which is the island my family come from. We hope to test some of these recipes in the shop – there is a huge range including some fantastic vegetarian dishes. I’ve always felt Greek cooking wrongfully considered to be meat heavy – we have a veggie Souvlaki at the shop too!
Which are your favourite independent businesses in Oxford?
Really tough as there are so many brilliant businesses out there! In terms of our colleagues in the Covered Market ;
Oxford Aromatics – Joy lives up to her name and provides great service and advice. Never fail to find a really nice gift here too. Nothing – brilliant range, brilliant service and lovely staff. Some of the most creative window displays in Oxford! IScream – our waistlines are slowly expanding being this close to top-notch gelato. I’m convinced Graham trained at Hogwarts…
Shop at the Old Fire Station – I’m behind the times and only just been made aware of this fantastic shop – loads of interesting and quirky gift ideas! Payne and Son – another family business with excellent service and a beautiful range of jewellery.
Panny is genuinely one of the most positive business owners, and his passion and dedication really shine through everything he does, including their delicious souvlaki! Running your own business is one of the hardest things you can do, and we are so thrilled we can support and promote independent business owners like Panny who make our community and city more vibrant, colourful and exciting.
Love, Rosie xxx