While the lion's share of the 24,000-square-foot building at 5417 Detroit Avenue currently houses Agora Foods International
, the front section of the building is on the verge of a transformation that will undoubtedly delight neighbors and foodies from near and far.
"We're going to have a specialty shop and a small tapas café operation," says Steve Daniels, vice president of Agora, a Mediterranean food importer and distributor that formerly operated at 3007 Clinton Avenue in Ohio City. "We're not just going to do Greek, we're going to do the whole Mediterranean region." The store and café will collectively be called Astoria.
Tom and Joy Harlor will helm the café, which will seat approximately 45. The couple is best known for their popular Ohio City nosh spot, Le Petit Triangle Café,
at 1881 Fulton Avenue.
The café will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with full liquor service Monday through Saturday and beer-only on Sunday, although Daniels is petitioning to expand the Sunday offerings.
Retail selections will include cheeses, olive oils, dry cured meats, grains, roasted vegetables and olives that Agora imports from around the world and are currently only available to its commercial clients. Astoria will be approximately 4,000 square feet and will feature an open floor plan that will accommodate the retail sales area, dine-in seating, a small bar and an open kitchen.
Currently, the entire front of the building is walled-in, unattractive from the outside and cave-like on the inside, but that's about to change.
"It's going to be one big room, all windows, with light coming in to make it nice and bright and sunny," says Daniels of Astoria, noting his team's affinity for the area.
"We're excited for the area and, hopefully, they'll be excited for us," Considering the new windows and storefront renovation will completely transform the corner of West 55th
Street and Detroit Avenue, that's a pretty safe bet.
Daniels expects the final building permit to be in hand by press time, with work starting as soon as possible. He anticipates the windows and signage to be in place as early as July, with a tentative Astoria opening date this November. The architect on the project is Dale Serne and the contractor is Manhattan Construction.
Astoria will also eventually feature an outdoor patio and private party room that will double as a conference and tasting room for the Agora Food portion of the business.
"We're trying to keep this old-world," says Daniels of the future entertainment space, noting the exposed vintage brick and ceiling beams.
Agora president George Kantzios and Daniels purchased the property in May of 2013 for $275,000 via a separate business, Detroit Investment. Agora Foods International, which had been operating at the Clinton Avenue location since 2008, moved into the building in July 2014.
"It's just been a long process," says Daniels, adding that he's anxious to see construction on Astoria move forward.
At one time, the ambling space was home to Edgewater Chevrolet. Astoria will be in the area that housed the former Detroit Avenue showroom, once full up with gleaming Corvettes, Impalas and even a few special pennies
. The old service bays and subsequent additions now accommodate Agora Foods, with a staggering 3,000 square feet of cooler space, 400 square feet of freezer space and shelving lined with 50-pound bags of grains, giant cans of olives and whole rounds of cheese from points across the globe.
"We have olives from seven different countries," notes Daniels.
The building required extensive work prior to the Agora move-in, including a complete electrical and plumbing overhaul. The project is privately funded save for a $3,900 Gordon Square Business Development Grant, although a Cleveland Storefront Renovation Program
grant is pending.
Daniels lays out the vision for Astoria as "a little bit of Gallucci's
, a little bit of West Point Market
and our own little twist," adding that he and the rest of the team are in the perfect spot to see it come to fruition.
"We invested a lot in the Gordon Square area," says Daniels. "This is a part of us. We believe in Gordon Square. We believe in Cleveland."