Sweet Habit Open for Business-Bringing Greek Culture and Great Coffee with a Smile
By: Jessica Militello
At Sweet Habit, a new café that opened in the beginning of March, house music plays in the background while patrons chat amongst each other in Greek as a Panathinaikos basketball game plays above on a television screen. Customers are greeted by an alluring aroma of coffee and a big smile by business partners Christoforos Petropoulos, 32, and Iraklis Ramadis, 29. At the cash register a sign that reads, “work hard and be kind” is displayed next to a large apotropaic, a popular pendant in Greek culture believed to ward off the “evil eye” or bad energy. This is certainly not another generic Anytown, USA Starbucks, but a unique and flavorful addition to the Astoria, Queens community.
What started as an earnest goal and a random trip to a hair salon just a few stores down from a then space for rent has turned into an official grand opening and two first-time business owners. Petropoulos and Ramadis first met almost six years ago while working at the same nightclub, Caprice lounge, also located in Astoria, and became good friends outside of work. The two young men had more than work in common since they both came to the United States from Greece on their own. Petropoulos moved here almost nine years ago seeking a change of environment and better work opportunities, and Ramadis made the move over ten years ago, initially for school.
For both men, owning a business was certainly a goal they shared in common which is what led them to join together. However, the choice of a café wasn’t simply a matter of hopping on the popularity of lattes and tea, but a story that has roots in the culture of their upbringing in Greece.
“I come from a family that values coffee very much,” said Petropoulos. “And a country and culture that has coffee in our daily routine, not just to wake us up, but as a means of meeting people and getting together. It’s more just than just a beverage.”
Just a few months ago the two friends were hanging out on their way to get a haircut. They had been discussing wanting to make their goal of opening a business a reality. When Ramadis asked Petropoulos for a recommendation on where to get a good haircut, they happened upon Anastasios’ located just a few stores away from a vacant space at 45-11 Broadway. During Ramadis’ haircut, they learned the space was available for purchase, a story they view as more than a coincidence. Petropoulos explained, “It was like a sign from God, it came out of nowhere. When he finished getting his haircut, we looked at each other like, “You want to do this?” okay let’s go”, and that’s how it happened.”
It certainly comes as no surprise to Astorians or these two young men that the neighborhood is filled with cafes. The nearest one is located as close as the corner from where Sweet Habit proudly stands. But for these ambitious owners, their unique menu, great prices, and sourcing their items from fellow small businesses makes them stand out among the crowd.
Sweet Habit offers an array of tea, coffee, smoothies, and sandwiches. One item worth coming for is the Greek frappe, a drink that is almost exclusively available in Greece and Greek-owned cafes because of its unique preparation. On their menu they prominently feature two smoothies, one named “The Hercules,” a drink Ramadis concocted, and “The C.P,” named after Petropoulos. However, Petropoulos coyly stated that the ingredients to these particular drinks, beneficial for health and strength, will have to remain a secret, and are just something curious patrons will have to discover for themselves.
“Our goal is to serve something worth coming back for,” said Petropoulos. “We value what we do, our coffee is from Brooklyn Roastery, a small business starting out now as well, so we try to be more careful with our choices. We have a good vibe, we like what we do, we smile; that’s a recipe for success.”
Sweet Habit 45-11 Broadway ave Astoria, NY 11103