TAGS: SMALL BUSINESS I IKARIA ISLAND LIFE
‘Open a bar on an island’ was a favourite answer people gave when I asked them what they want to become when they grow up. And while most of us keep it as a dream, Christos opened his bar and named it ‘Rebelos’ (the rebel). "I built a place for people to have memories from.." Could you do it too 👇
Once upon a time…
I always wanted to open a bar (like this). I am a kind of a person that can’t live without bars and tavernas, but when quarantine started all the places in Athens closed.
This is when I came to Ikaria with my friend Alex. It was March. Greece had a very strict quarantine, but in Ikaria we became free.
We were four people in a fisherman's village, an hour away from anything.
And I had the best time of my life: Alex was fishing, I was cooking. We were swimming every day, and watching local TV on a small old television. We were like an old couple, but we had so much fun.
Then Alex started saying that he would like to live in his village permanently, and that inspired me to think about staying too and opening a bar. At the end of the summer, I started to look for a place to rent or buy. But, I didn't have much luck.
Then one night, I was out of cigarettes and my friend Elma showed me this place. I’ve been coming to the island for 8 years and I’ve never been to (Rebelos) before. So I bought the cigarettes from the waitress, told her why I am there and several months later, in December, I get a call from the previous owner.
How did you feel when you received this call?
Then I got really nervous. Because it became real. Initially, I was planning to do it together with my best friend, but it didn't work out. Despite that, I took a boat to the island in December and met up with the owner. I signed the agreement and bought the place.
When I walked inside the space, it was a weird feeling, now it was mine.
What did you do first?
When I took it, the place was falling apart. But I decided that I wanted to do this and I wanted to do it by myself. So I did everything apart from some electrical installations: I did the woodwork, decorated it, I painted the place...
I had no previous experience, but it's not rocket science. So if you want to do something similar, and you have the time, you can do it. There’s something about working with your hands, it is almost like an artistic craft.
What experience did you have before starting?
None. I (still) make a living building website, I have my own website selling posters and I am working on being a director.
I had no idea about bars before. I had never worked as a waiter. But it was as if I jumped on a wave, kept going, and now, whatever happens, happens.
Was there ‘a mistake’ that you made?
Initially, I thought that I would cook too and that since I have a small place it would be easy. Now it seems crazy! I'm a bit embarrassed about what we served people at first, and at the time I thought it was good!
Lucky, soon after the opening I arranged for some friends to come from Athens – and soon we were four - Fou, Alexis, and I met Aris, the cook, by chance. He didn’t have previous experience, but he enjoyed cooking and so just like that, he started on a super-busy night and exceeded expectations.
What do you like the most about your work?
''The fact that I built a place for people to have memories from. And I enjoy hearing and seeing people being excited about the place. It's not just a bar, it’s as if they are connected with it.
Can you describe your island-life day?
I wake up late, because I sleep in late. Then I come to Rebelos and maybe visit the butcher or the fish guy, or I clean the mess from the previous night. But I enjoy being here and having a smoke and when people start to arrive, the day begins. At night, it's when the weird things happen; you meet new people, and you may end up somewhere else, but it’s basically Rebelos all day and all night.
What is the romantic notion about having a bar vs. real life?
This is my second year and I'm still realising it. The truth is, I had thought it would be like inviting friends over to my home. But it is a business and you have to take decisions and stay on top of
finances. One piece of advice that help me, was asking for advice from other bar owners and keeping track
of everything. For instance, I have a notebook from last year and I have tracked everything: how was the band, what was my income and what were the expenses. This helps to control future costs and to improve.
What did you learn about yourself?
I like wine :)
On a more serious note, running this bar gave me confidence. I have previously done movies and other successful projects, but now I really feel proud. And this is not what I can say about the movies I made, which is my other pursuit.
With my bar, I can see that people enjoy it, and I personally love it so this is what makes it a success. It’s not about the money, it’s more about the idea and it almost feels like it is a movie on its own.
Last question. What do you think the world needs more?
Perhaps it’s a bit generic, but we need more patience and more second chances.
P.S. If you visit Ikaria, you'll need to look a bit for this hidden charming bar. I personally loved going to random events like sardela bbq nights and listening to small live bands. Find their Instagram here.
P.S.S. Do you want to work on something you love too? Playground is an anti-procrastination platform that helps us start and stay consistent. Check if Playground is for you.