Ilias Pappas of The Athenian Grill
Lexington, KY – After making the decision to open up a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, mobile food merchant Ilias Pappas worried an online fundraising campaign would fizzle out and possibly jeopardize his plans.
“Midway through the campaign, I really got stressed. In the beginning, the first six, seven days, it skyrocketed to $9,000, and then it completely plateaued for 20-something days,” said Pappas, owner of Athenian Grill, which is slated to open on South Ashland late this summer. “It stayed around $9,000; I was getting an email about a $25 pledge every three or four days.”
Pappas had set a goal for $15,000 on Kickstarter.com, a site where patrons can promise funds to causes or businesses they care about, but no funds are taken until the stated goal amount is met.
But when the pledges slowed, he thought it was over. He believed he’d reached his ceiling.
“The people that were going to support me have supported me, but it’s not going to happen,” Pappas said of his mindset at the time.
Despite his pessimism, Athenian Grill hit its Kickstarter goal late last week and is now hoping to reach a total of $20,000 by June 19.
“I take it as a power to move forward,” he said. “It’s a demanding business, and the support of the community and the catering jobs we get, and the last two, three weeks of support, have been more than tremendous.”
Pappas, a chef and native of Greece, started setting up a pop tent and tables at area beer bars and breweries in the fall. His gyros, spanakopita, a spinach pastry, and other traditional Greek cuisine quickly built him a following.
He plans to open in late August after meeting commitments to serve as a vendor at the AFB Woodland Art Fair and the Greek Orthodox Church’s annual festival.
The restaurant is slated for the former location of Belle’s Bakery on Ashland. He’s been busy gutting the interior to give it a different look and feel.
“We’re focusing on real, traditional cuisine,” he told Business Lexington’s sister publication the Chevy Chaser last month. “About 90 percent of our menu dishes, you’re not going to be able to find them anywhere else in the area.”
After the restaurant is open, Pappas said The Athenian Grill will still make appearances around town, at special events and at the places where it first started, though on a less frequent basis.
To see the Kickstarter campaign, click here.