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Restaurateurs grow green cafe business
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Photo courtesy of ANDREW KOUMI
The Green Market Café, located at 3150 Tampa Road in Oldsmar, enjoys a busy lunchtime crowd.
OLDSMAR – Owners of the popular and successful Green Market Cafe on Tampa Road will open a new restaurant in March. The new cafe will resemble the Oldsmar location, which features outdoor seating and a custom-built green grass fence.

“We’re going to look to expand in Tampa, and the new store will be a little bit bigger,” said Andrew Koumi, owner of the family-based business. “I’m looking for the perfect space.”

The Green Market Cafe opened in July 2010. Both Andrew and his mother, Elizabeth, work at the restaurant full time, serving healthy alternative dishes such as fresh salads, grilled whole wheat wraps, brown rice bowls, multi-grain flatbreads and freshly-made yogurt.

“I try to give things a healthy spin where they still taste good,” Koumi said. “We don’t fry anything – we bake everything. The chicken, bacon and mushrooms are baked.”

The restaurant serves between 600 and 800 customers per day during the week accommodating lunch crowds from local hospitals and businesses like Lockheed Martin and Nielsen. Weekend patrons come for breakfast flatbread sandwiches, crepe bowls and yogurt frappes and for dinner before a movie at the local AMC Theatres.

Daily lunch specials include a choice of five and sometimes six homemade soups including chicken and wild rice, butternut squash, mushroom and kale and tomato basil.

For $29.99, customers can buy two entrees, two yogurts and two movie tickets, a $43 value. Koumi sells between 1,000 and 2,000 of these specials per month.

“I focus on internal marketing. You get the movie vouchers and you come here and eat and there’s a total package price,” Koumi said. A single person, especially teenagers and college students, can purchase a movie ticket and a small yogurt for $9.99.

The menu has more than 100 items and entrees include your choice of a small yogurt. Five special and seasonal flavors of yogurt are made fresh daily by Koumi, whose house brand is Kiwi. Taro is the best-selling flavor and is made from a flavoring of taro root, which is popular in many Hawaiian dishes. The purple vegetable resembles a sweet potato. The pale lavender-colored yogurt has a subtle tart and creamy taste.

“For the first two years that I was open, I refused to serve vanilla yogurt because of the pure fact that I believed that no one would want to try any of the different flavors,” Koumi said. So what eventually happened was that taro became my best-selling flavor and now I sell regular vanilla yogurt.”

Koumi, 26, moved to Florida with his family from Long Island, N.Y. He attended middle and high school here and continued his education at the University of Florida, earning an undergraduate degree in business.

Koumi and his father, Steven, bought a panini press and experimented in the kitchen for six months before opening the Green Market Cafe. Although Koumi’s father had wanted to open an ice cream shop, the idea to combine a cafe and yogurt restaurant was born.

Koumi buys mostly local products for his ingredient base. He buys tortillas from Plant City and oranges for fresh-squeezed juice from Odessa. Items on the menu range from $7 to $9. Koumi is able to keep this price point because he cross-utilizes most items on the menu about six to seven times, for example, goat cheese is used in seven items on the menu. The cafe does not have a freezer and fresh produce is delivered daily by truck or distribution houses.

“When you use everything faster, it’s fresher,” Koumi said. “The lettuce comes right from the truck; we’re chopping it and it’s going right out to a plate.”

Most non-food items get recycled including biodegradable take-out boxes and plastic yogurt spoons that customers can drop in a recycle bin on their way out.

Koumi employs 36 to 45 part-time servers and full-time cooks. He hires college students during the busy spring and summer months, when people want to eat lighter meals.

Although Koumi and his family are Greek, they do not own a Greek-style restaurant.

“Maybe cooking is just in my blood,” he said.

For more information or to see what’s on the menu at the Green Market Cafe, visit www.g­reenm­arket­cafe.­com.
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