Pantelis Melissinos is not a man you meet every day.
Few people live up to the title ‘renaissance man’ but Pantelis — craftsman, artist, poet, playwright and musician — more than fits the bill.
Based in a cozy workshop-cum-boutique near the shopping hub of Monastiraki in downtown Athens, Pantelis is the third generation of his family crafting handmade Greek sandals.
First established by his grandfather in 1920, Melissinos sandals — custom made and with one pair never exactly the same as another — have become an iconic brand.
Sought out and worn by Sophia Loren, Anthony Quinn, the Beatles, Kate Moss and many other stars, Melissinos sandals are crafted in front of the customer who can wait and take in the jumbled beauty of the store.
Because, far from just being a footwear shop, it is a mix of art gallery and family museum.
Pantelis takes Greek Reporter around the small store, with many of his New York-influenced artworks hanging from the walls.
These energetic paintings rest alongside black-and-white photographs of his father and grandfather — both men with creative talents besides sandal making.
And liberally dotted everywhere are photographs, news stories and signed letters from all over the world, thanking the ‘poet sandal maker’ of Athens for his hard work.
“I didn’t have time to see the world,” he says. “So, the world comes to me.”
And he’s not wrong. Effortlessly blending being interviewed with serving paying customers, he fits a fresh pair of sandals onto the feet of a visitor from Canada, while customers from China wait for their orders.
It is rare to have such an entertaining wait though — with the small store full of people and Panetlis’ small white dog, the man himself treats Greek Reporter and his customers to a tune on the shop piano.
A renaissance man indeed.