Sklavenitis: The shocking story of a poor family from Lefkada who conquered Greece from scratch without ever advertising!
When a representative of a German team of experts visited the Sklavenitis chain and was informed that the company in question, although it had only 36 stores – all in Attica – is the most profitable Greek food chain, he said with surprise:
“This company is a phenomenon.” All this for a company that has never been advertised on television and which, in defiance of globalized times, vigorously refuses to be sold to multinational groups.
The story of the Sklavenitis family takes place in Lefkada, in the second decade of the 20th century.
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There, Gerasimos Sklavenitis, a father of four, is active in importing wood and exporting 1 wine. His company was very successful, at least until 1936, when an accident occurred on a large consignment of goods destined for abroad.
The financial damage may have been excruciating, but at a time when failure was a stigma on one’s personality, one would have to face the damage to the family’s credibility and reputation. Forced in some way but also looking for a new beginning, the Sklavenitis family arrives in Athens, where unfortunately the conditions are not the most ideal, due to the impending war.
In the occupation, the poor family will be severely tested and bent, as both parents starve and die. Then, the eldest son, 18-year-old Ioannis, takes over as the protector of the family, who keeps the accounting books in a household utensil factory. His younger brother, Spyros, who will work in a soap factory and the Red Cross as a security guard, will soon join the fight.
It is even speculated that they are conducting military action in a strike group based in Petralona, although this has never been confirmed by the very sparing family. The first business of the two brothers coincides with the end of the war, when they start selling cannabis, millet, and basic necessities in the Central Market.
They will soon turn to the trade of spices and groceries, where they will meet Miltiadis Papadopoulos, with whom in 1954 they set up a wholesale company, “Sklavenitis & Co.”, with the object of selling food and headquartered in Petralona.
A few years later, the three friends decide to take advantage of a new medium, the telephone, which had begun to “penetrate” the average Greek household. They are original, therefore, founding next to Kifissos, in an area where at that time there were only fields, “TYLEXYP”, the first telephone ordering company in Greece.
Thanks to its extremely low prices, the first delivery company in Greece would become known throughout the basin and would essentially be the harbinger of the three men’s involvement in supermarkets.
Indeed, in 1969, at the end of a decade when our country experienced significant growth rates, the first supermarket of the company was founded, which was the largest in the country, with sales spaces reaching 2,000 sq.m.
Adopting as a slogan “as cheap as nowhere” and with the excellent quality of products and services it offered (it is said that the employees of this chain are the best paid in the supermarket – many would not receive a pension from the company), The new store will attract hordes of customers, while it will “whet the appetite” of the founders, who in the coming years will open two more stores, in Peristeri and Kaminia.
All this pushes the third brother, who until then had chosen the military career, Nasos Sklavenitis, to join the company – in the end, only “Theodora”, the eldest child, remained “out of the bridegroom”, since those years were not “should” -especially in conservative families- for a woman to be involved in business.
Since then, the growth has been stable, since until 1993, the year of the death of Ioannis Sklavenitis, 26 new stores will be established, mainly in areas where until then the grocers “reigned” – today the company has 71 stores (of which 35 operated from 2006 onwards).
Despite the conscious decision not to expand the chain outside Attica, its profitability and sales remained all these years at extremely high levels, attracting the attention of foreign groups that from time to time made tempting proposals.
Proverbial was the white check offered in 1999 by the then manager of Carrefour, to receive the polite answer from Spyros Sklavenitis: “But you did not understand, we do not intend to sell.”
The irritated manager’s response was rather arrogant: “In five years you will be forced to sell, but on our terms.”
Five years may have passed and Spyros Sklavenitis, the last surviving of the founders, died in 2006, but his children, who bought the shares from the descendants of the other founders, are still possessed by the exact same doctrine: to remain the company is independent and Greek.
Source: διαφορετικό by www.diaforetiko.gr.
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