Yoleni’s Has Closed for Good
What led to the closing of the Greek market and restaurant on Westminster Street in downtown Providence?
Yoleni’s Greek market and restaurant arrived on the Providence dining scene on Westminster Street in 2018. This week, the food-lovers’ haven abruptly closed, leaving some questioning the reasoning behind the out-of-the-blue shuttering. Yoleni’s was known for its Greek yogurt, fresh feta and flatbreads as well as its marketplace selling authentic Greek products flown in from the country.
The building is owned by Paolino Properties, which sited the pandemic as the cause of the closure. “We are very sad to see Yoleni’s close. The restaurant, which opened in 2018, was never able to fully rebound from the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Joseph R. Paolino Jr., managing partner of Paolino Properties. “Among those challenges is the concept of remote work, which has been shattering businesses everywhere. That’s why I continue to call on political leaders and other leaders such as the Chamber of Commerce to encourage people to return to the office.”
Locals debated the reason for Yoleni’s closure in a RI Food Fights Instagram post.
“No parking, no residents, no foot traffic. No surprises,” says Matt Simmons, a local hospitality consultant and beverage director, in an Instagram comment.
Rhode Island Red Food Tours included Yoleni’s as a stop along its Providence food tour on Westminster Street. “We brought all our guests there and the family was always so hospitable and spent a lot of time telling them about the food and culture,” says a representative from Rhode Island Red Food Tours in another comment. “The guests absolutely loved it and went back all the time after the tours. So sad.”
One of the local farms that did business with the market also expressed confusion on the closing. “It’s heartbreaking. I remember we did one of the first events with them, ‘the Chef Challenge.’ It was a great time,” says Radical Roots Farm.
In a 2018 interview with Alexandra Georgiou, who co-owned Yoleni’s with her husband, Georgiou said that Yoleni’s first began as a small, specialty Greek producer with online sales. The first actual brick and mortar location opened in Athens, Greece, where her husband, his brother and their nephews worked. The Georgiou family looked into investors and decided to concentrate on the United States market by opening an experience store. Their first physical store in the United States was launched in downtown Providence in May 2018, and it followed their original Yoleni’s store model in downtown Athens. The reason they chose Rhode Island to launch the business is because Alexandra is originally from Rhode Island and was born and raised in Newport.
“My husband and I lived between Greece, Dubai and New Mexico, where we ran a tech company. One day my husband said, ‘You know your dad is getting older in age, why don’t we open the first Yoleni’s store in Rhode Island and have Providence as the base?’ I thought that it was a great idea,” Georgiou had said in the 2018 interview. Nearly five years later, it’s closed.
Paolino Properties is looking for a new tenant.