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New businesses brave pandemic economy

By CJ HADDAD - | Oct 15, 2020

Big 8 BBQ is set to open Oct. 29 at 1217 SE 47th Terrace where they will offer eight kinds of slow-cooked meat and eight different sides from which to choose. PROVIDED

Although the pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses far and wide, some new establishments have opened here in Cape Coral looking to make their mark on the community.

Opening a restaurant or eatery amidst the coronavirus has been no easy task for these new business owners, all of whom had visions of creation prior to COVID-19.

Finally, these new-to-the-Cape venues are open for business after months of the unknown.

“The Greek Spot” is quickly turning into the city’s newest hot spot as customers flock to find traditional and authentic Greek cuisine.

Owned by Cape Coral husband and wife duo Paul and Tina Chalkias, The Greek Spot gives patrons a unique-to-the-area taste. Enjoy a variety of gyro on the spit or enjoy a fresh salad or homemade dip that accentuates Mediterranean flavors.

Penny's Coffee Bar opened in early September and offers a myriad of coffee options and smoothies. Guests can also enjoy goodies like French macaroons, bagels, scones, cookies, danish, pastries and even hot sandwiches. PROVIDED

“We envisioned a little spot where we can bring a taste of Greece to the Cape Coral community,” said Tina.

The Greek Spot opened its doors Oct. 5 and staffing is a family affair. Along with the owners, Tina’s mother, father, sister and nephew all help out. The Chalkias’ parents and grandparents (or yaya and papou) are both from Greece, where they visit each year and where they dreamed about opening up a Greek-style eatery in Cape Coral.

With that come dishes passed down for generations.

“It’s all grandma and grandpa’s recipes that we’ve enjoyed over the years at home — that’s what we brought here,” Tina said. “Our dips, our sauces, our hummus — everything is homemade.”

They even import olives, feta cheese and olive oil from Greece. They rotate slow-cooked chicken and pork on the spit and slice to order.

The Greek Spot” is quickly turning into the city’s newest hot spot as customers flock to the Cape’s only joint to find traditional and authentic Greek cuisine. Owned by Cape Coral husband and wife duo Tina and Paul Chalkias, The Greek Spot gives patrons a unique-to-the-area taste. Enjoy a variety of gyro on the spit or enjoy a fresh salad or homemade dip that accentuates Mediterranean flavors. PROVIDED

Tina said uncertainty was their biggest concern when the pandemic arrived in Southwest Florida.

“We had quite a few challenges along the way,” Tina said. “We dealt with financial challenges as well as the fear of not knowing what’s to come. Here we are opening a new business and wondering when the pandemic will end, because it’s still here. We’re really fortunate right now to have had a positive response from the community.”

It was Tina’s dream to open a Greek-inspired eatery in a city she grew up in. Now that her children are older and she has more time to devote to the business, she and her husband jumped at the opportunity.

The Greek spot is motivated by the response from the community thus far and said they look forward to continue to serve the residents of Cape Coral.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to bring something to the city that wasn’t here,” Tina said. “It’s been a blessing to be part of this community. Everyone has been so welcoming. I don’t have words to describe it.”

The Greek Spot is at 1239 Cape Coral Pkwy. E and is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Those looking for a fresh cup of joe, hot or cold, can venture to Penny’s Coffee Bar on Southeast 47th Terrace, which opened in early September.

Owner Sherri Peterson brings locally ground coffee to Cape Coral in a cozy atmosphere. On the walls are an abundance of art (often featuring humorous animals) and a “Penny Lane” directly to the counter.

Penny’s is named after Peterson’s dog (with a proud picture behind the counter) and offers a myriad of coffee options and even smoothies.

Guests can also enjoy goodies like French macaroons, bagels, scones, cookies, danish, pastries and even hot sandwiches.

“People are telling us that they love our coffee, which is the first thing we want to hear,” Peterson said. “I have a love for coffee and food and great tastes. The opportunity presented itself and my daughter and I said ‘let’s do it.'”

Be ready to crack a smile or two while you sip on your coffee, as silly animal videos are streamed and many pieces of comedic art surround guests.

“We try to keep it light-hearted,” Peterson said.

She also sells her own line of seasonings and sauces.

Opening Penny’s did not come without its difficulties, though.

“The challenges of getting this up and off the ground during a pandemic were enormous,” Peterson said. “We just kept forging ahead.”

Peterson’s daughter Amber has experience in the barista world and helps mom out with the day-to-day operations of Penny’s.

Peterson hopes to bring in live entertainment soon such as a comedian on special event nights.

Penny’s is at 1112 Southeast 47th Terrace and is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A new barbecue spot set to open Oct. 29 in the South Cape is 35 years in the making according to owner/pit master Bill Keister.

Big 8 BBQ on Southeast 47th Terrace is set to churn out delicious classic dishes and sides to customers who can dine-in or take-out.

At Big 8, there will be eight different meats and eight different sides from which to choose.

“It’s a different concept that no one has yet,” Keister said. “I wanted to do something creative.”

Protein choices include brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken (two ways), turkey, sausage and burnt ends.

“If you want 14-hour smoked meat, this is the place to go,” Keister said.

Sides will include two kinds of beans, two kinds of mac and cheese, collard greens, potato salad, coleslaw and corn bread.

“We want to keep it simple,” Keister said.

Guests will also be able to see their food prepared in front of them, whether they take their order to go or are seated in the dining room.

“We want the guests to be able to see everything that they order,” Keister said. “Here, the meat gets cut in front of you so you get to see exactly what you’re ordering.”

For those who choose the dining in option, a cart will come to your table with all of the potential meat and side combinations, hot and ready to eat and cut on the spot.

Keister said it’s been interested opening a restaurant in the midst of a public health crisis.

“Ninety percent of restaurants don’t make it in good times, and I’m opening one in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

Big 8 had plans to open prior to COVID-19. Some of the challenges Keister has faced include how to format the restaurant.

“Do we put social distancing circles on the floor? Do we wear masks?” Keister said.

He said his staff will start by wearing masks and see how things go.

“I want everybody to be comfortable,” Keister said.

It terms of constructing and hiring during a pandemic, Keister said he had little difficulty finding those who needed work and has his staff ready to go.

Keister said he has plans to open nine other Big 8 BBQ locations in the area if the concept in the Cape well received.

Big 8 will also have a special section for to-go orders and delivery and an outdoor patio.

Big 8 BBQ is at 1217 SE 47th Terrace.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj