Part of the struggle of running this restaurant is appealing to local people who may be suspicious of Greek food, or who are more likely to eat at chain restaurants on Coshocton Avenue. Many local business owners struggle to compete with the low prices, name recognition, and variety that stores on Coshocton can offer. Businesses in the area work together to combat this issue. Cline, who has lived here for his whole life, has witnessed the economic decline that this competition has spurred in downtown Mount Vernon, and appreciates efforts towards revitalization. He believes that the personalized experience that businesses like Athens can provide is their greatest asset. Cline mentioned his relationship with several customers and business owners by name, including “John across the street,” who is in charge of Athens’ promotional items.
One of the restaurant’s greatest tools in convincing customers to stray from Coshocton and American food, is the First Friday Festivals, held in town square. While people may be less willing to enter Athens, they can be easily hooked by seeing and sampling these new foods in the less intimidating environment that First Friday provides. Cline is certain that anyone who tries Athens’ food once is certain to become a regular at the restaurant. Athens also offers more traditional American dishes, to help new customers move beyond the discomfort that comes with trying new foods.
Although he realizes that a Greek restaurant may be more successful in a larger city, Cline finds great satisfaction in “providing a world class meal in the middle of Mount Vernon, Ohio.”
“There’s no faces on Coshocton Avenue to talk to, you know. If I’m walking in they don’t know me anywhere on Coshocton Avenue…but if I walk anywhere downtown, I mean, I can walk in every door, and say hi to everybody, and they all know who I am, and vice versa.”
Photo: Athens Greek’s prime location on town square makes it a popular stop for both people passing through and local residents attending First Friday events. Courtesy of Sarah Aguilar
Written by Sarah Aguilar (’19) and Maria Brescia-Weiler (’19)