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August 6, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Why Pike Place Market shut down wildly popular Ellenos Yogurt (and how it could re-open)

Photo courtesy of Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt

Photo courtesy of Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt

Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt won instant fans after opening last month at Pike Place Market.

“Life-changing,” read one Yelp review. Divine. Amazing. Tangy. Insanely creamy. “Brand new and already killing it.”

Then, the sad addendum: The shop inside the Corner Produce market had, at least temporarily, been shut down.

The reason?

The owners ran afoul of the strict rules governing Pike Place Market stores. The family-run business did meet most of the basic criteria with their fresh Greek yogurt made from local ingredients at a Georgetown factory. But they were selling it in an area of Corner Produce that had a permit to sell cut fresh fruits and vegetables, according to a market spokesperson.

Ellenos owner Alex Apostolopoulos attributes it to a misunderstanding, saying fruits were part of the permit, but that “we got so popular, the yogurt took over. We weren’t selling any fruit.”

Although the market’s Preservation and Development Authority shut down the shop, it’s also working with the owners to convert that part of Corner Produce into a separate business that could re-open with the correct permits, said Kelly Lindsay, director of programs and marketing for the PDA. “Customer response has been overwhelmingly positive” to the yogurt, she said in an email, and it was quickly apparent that Ellenos could be a market presence on its own.

The market’s Historical Commission is scheduled to make a decision Aug. 14.

Apostolopoulos said he appreciates the support and hopes that the customers who raved about the shop will send letters to the commission and back their return. “We are optimistic, but you never know. We may have ruffled a few feathers now, and it’s very complicated. It’s embarrassing to us that we’ve caused such a commotion in the market,” he said.

He’s been humbled by the feedback from Seattleites, but does think there’s nothing else here like what Ellenos provided.

“Typically, with supermarket Greek yogurt, they use powdered gelatin thickeners for machinery to duplicate Greek yogurt. We put a lot of hours of effort into it, and use simple, quality ingredients, and a lot of hours of effort and time. No one wants to put that time into it, it’s a lot of effort for a cup of yogurt, but it shows in every spoonful.”

Apostolopoulos, 25, and his father came over to start the Pike Place business from Australia, where his family also makes yogurt, after years of discussion with the Corner Produce owners, he said. “It’s a lot of effort to build a factory in a new country. We made a decision last year to do it…”

“It’s really local, and we only make small batches, and you can only get it at Pike Place.”

Comments | Topics: Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt, Historical Commission, PDA

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