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Mid-Week Mugging: Mea's Place

Chat with Mea, get a home-cooked style Greek meal and maybe smash a plateĀ 
Mea 2 *
Mea Giakoumakis is owner and operator of Mea's Place - A Greek Tradition. The store is located on Mary St. in downtown Barrie. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

Step into Mea's Place and you are greeted with Greek music, display cases bursting with tempting Greek pastries and a daily, home-cooked style meal, hot and ready for your dinner table.

Mea Giakoumakis opened Mea's Place on Mary St. about a month ago and offers a warm welcome to every customer.

"It's a traditional Greek store," she says of her business. "Music is Greek. Atmosphere is Greek and owner is Greek and owner's attitude is Greek."

Giakoumakis loves her spot, a tiny white bungalow just steps to Dunlop St. and the waterfront. 

"Contrary to what people say about downtown, I love being downtown," she said. "I love seeing traffic, people outside my door and I love being around noise."

She was born in Greece, grew up in Montreal and finished high school in Kingston where at age 16 she started cooking at a diner. 

Mea does all the baking herself, including spinach and feta pies, honey made baklava and a monthly menu with daily meal features.

This month's daily meals include chicken legs with oven baked potatoes, stuffed tomatoes, moussaka and lamb. 

Everything is made fresh daily, baked not fried with no artificial flavours or sodium. 

"Whatever I serve to customers, at the end of the day that's what my kids will eat. That's what I will eat. That's what my husband will eat. I don't believe in keeping food for the next day. "

She originally opened her store in Lefroy two years ago and while she adored the 'beautiful little place' and had lots of loyal customers, the space was too small.

But there's one very unique Greek tradition she upholds in her new store - the throwing of plates. 

"The only reason that you will see dishes in here is not because you'll eat from them. It's not a sit and eat place. It's so we can break something."

Mea says her dishes have diminished since she moved her shop to Barrie.

Is that a good thing?

"It's a beautiful thing," she exclaims. "It's the breaking of everything that can cause anxiety and stress. It starts with music when you hear a nice song. It takes you to that place where you let go and you need to break something and you do. And because you're Greek and it's part of your tradition, it's acceptable."

Customers do the dish breaking too. 

It's difficult to define her store with its groceries, take-out meals, pastries, cookies and Greek coffee but the best way is with the Greek work 'bakaliko', she said. 

"A bakaliko is the little market in the middle of the village that has all those last minute things that a house runs out of."

She misses her old location but it's obvious she also adores her new store and her new city of business. 

"I love it because it's a beautiful town. It's very vivid. It's very lively. Any town that's next to a waterfront, it represents warm people. There's warmth. There's life," Mea said. 

"Sometimes when I close the store and it's dark I'll drive down, just to see the lights along the Lakeshore. If you add a little bit of imagination to that, you could be anywhere." 

A customer compared her Lefroy store to the iconic TV show Cheers because Mea knew all her customers by name.

"I make it my business to know all of my customers," she said. 

And she plans to do the same in Barrie.

Mea's Place is located at 37 Mary St. and is open Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.