The renowned Greek kiosks that used to be found in every street corner selling newspapers, cigarettes, candy, soft drinks and other goods, are soon to become history as their licenses will not be renewed.
The new omnibus bill about to be signed in parliament dictates that the unique “periptera,” the traditional “mini markets” on the sidewalks in most every city in Greece, are about to go the way of the milkman delivering milk four decades ago.
According to a provision on the multi-bill, when a kiosk closes down or the owner dies, the license cannot be renewed or transferred.
It is estimated that there are about 12,000 such kiosks in Greece with the number dwindling rapidly ever since the economic crisis hit the country. It seems that the new bill will put the last nail on the coffin of a much cherished Greek tradition.
Some kiosks were literally 24-hour mini markets selling goods like gloves, skull caps, rucksacks, milk, yogurt, nuts, ice cream, beer, batteries, condoms, children’s toys, and whatever merchandise could fit in a small place.
The first kiosk in Athens opened in 1911 on Panepistimiou Street, and the idea of the periptero soon spread all over Greece and became an institution. When kiosks started hanging the newspapers, people would gather around to look at the headlines, often starting discussions based on the news.
In neighborhoods, the kiosk owner was known by all and he knew everyone and everything happening on the street. He would tell you all the neighborhood gossip or discuss with you sports and political developments.
Recession hit kiosks hard. The necessarily steeper prices drove people away. When in the past people would buy candy or soft drinks from the kiosk, now they would go to the super market to get the same things at a lower price. It was the beginning of the end.
Out of the 1,080 kiosks in Athens alone, almost half have closed down and about 300 of them have been abandoned. The municipality has removed most of them from the sidewalks and very few closed ones are left standing, reminding passers-by days of prosperity.