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Greek Suppliers Watching, Waiting



Customers who come in to Nick's International Foods at West Broad and Monroe streets ask their questions with worried faces.

"How's it going in Greece? Are your people OK?" says Manuel Mouris, proprietor of the family business that's been a downtown fixture since the 1950s.

Indeed, there are plenty of worries about Greece's economic turmoil, a story that's been in the news for weeks. Heavily in debt and laden with extraordinarily high unemployment, the Greek nation is at a crossroads.

For Mouris, that means extra telephone calls to make sure that the Hellenic delicacies he sells will keep coming. "So far," he says, "there's been a small shortage of chocolates. Everything else is OK, but who knows about the future?"

Mouris not only serves retail customers with a hankering for high-grade olive oil, olives and various cheeses, but also supplies 50 to 60 Greek restaurants throughout Virginia. He buys from importers in New York and Washington who stay on top of the crisis.

Greece joined the European Union in the 1990s and dropped the drachma currency for the euro. But the country has been overspending and racking up debt. Unemployment is at 26 percent. Among young people, it's at 60 percent. Mouris has relatives who fear for their jobs.

What will happen is anyone's guess, says Oleg Korenok, an associate prof-essor of economics at Virginia Commonwealth University. "If you have too much debt, you have two choices," he says: "You can go bankrupt. In Greece's case, that is an available option, but it is hard. Or you can spend less."

Other EU members fear that if Greece drops out of their organization and changes its currency, their economies also will tank, forcing a global recession. Stock in Greek banks dropped dramatically Monday after its stock market reopened from a weeks-long break.

At Stella's Grocery on Lafayette Street, owner Stella Dikos likewise is watching the situation carefully but hasn't seen any supply shortages. And she plans to visit Greece soon. "I hope they have learned their lesson," she says. "They are at the bottom now."

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