The Agora > Greek History & Culture

Kef pop



--- Quote ---Nostalgia in a bottle

It was in 1909 that Nicolas Spathis, a Greek Alexandrian, started a business making lemonade soda drinks that he sold in green glass bottles. Twenty years down the road in Cairo, Spiro, a nephew of Nicolas, started a bigger business that carried his name. It also carried the logo of a buzzing bee, an association with the apiaries that the family was then running.

In addition to the lemonade soda starter, Spiro, working out of his factory on the then very happening Rue Emadeddin in Cairo, added the red apple fizzy drink that was also very popular.

Hamed, an older attendant at one of the few remaining bars in downtown Cairo, recalls that both drinks were not just soft drinks but also served as the base for cocktails.

CHANGING TIMES: Spiro’s son and daughter kept the business running in Egypt after the death of their father in the early 1950s. According to Hamed, it was around 1977, when he started working as a bar attendant, that the decline of this previously buzzing bee started.

This was the moment of the Open Door economic policy that allowed big international companies to enter the Egyptian market with heavy campaigning that attracted clients eager to explore the new brands.

It was more about the introduction of US soft drinks and fast-food chains that started opening up stores in Downtown Cairo and elsewhere than about the declining quality of national products, Spathis included.

Hamed says that it took fewer than 10 years for demand to be almost fully directed towards the new drinks. Local drinks, except for the famous Stella beer, were pulling out, first into limited budget markets and then out of the market altogether.

The only surviving member of the Spathis family, the daughter of Spiro himself, resisted calls to relaunch the business.

Yet, by the late 1990s she was willing to accept that the bee that had been buzzing since the early decades of the 20th century was now failing. In 1998, the company and the brand were sold to ASPA.
--- End quote ---

According to Yeórgios at Fotis Family in Poros, Nicholas Spathis and his family originated from Kefalonia, there are Spathis bakeries in Argostoli and Sami.


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