Dora Tsagias, owner of Tithorea and Dora’s Greek Tours, is in the business of promoting Greek culture and tourism and that is why she was thrilled to find a shop in Rockwood that reminded her of her ancestral homeland.
“I loved the space because of the way it looked,” said Tsagias. “See the thick walls on the windows? That’s how houses in Greece are built. It reminded me of our home in Greece.”
Tsagias’s parents were born in Athens but she and her sister were born in Toronto where her father worked as a pilot and mechanic and her mother was a teacher.
The family had always planned to move back to Greece when the daughters were done school.
Tsagias and her husband, Alex Faraldo moved to Athens Greece in 1993 where they were married. The eldest of their two daughters, Maria, was born there.
“We lived there from 1993 to 2002 and we moved back to Canada because I was pregnant with my daughter Evangeline and they brought in the Euro,” said Tsagias. “I remember sitting on the veranda looking down on Athens, with the walnut trees throwing shade on us from the afternoon sun. I looked at Alex and said we are going back. He knew right away what I meant.”
They lived in Brampton for seven years before moving to Rockwood in 2009. Tsagias had a number of jobs since returning to Canada including teaching Greek and working as a corporate liaison for a hotel in Woodbridge. She graduated from York University in 2010 with a degree in political science.
She was working as a school bus driver for Sharp Bus Lines in Guelph in December 2013 when she got a call from her father in Greece. He told her he was shipping her 2,000 bottles of olive oil and convinced her to open a store.
On March 1, 2014 Tsagias opened Tithorea in the Old Quebec Street Mall and was thrust into business selling olive oil and other Greek food and pottery products.
Two years later when her lease came up she relocated to a small shop at the corner of Norfolk and Quebec Streets.
“You can see how chatty I am and people would hear all these stories about Greece from me or my dad on Skype,” she said. “A woman told me she had never travelled but she would love to visit Greece with me. I said okay and someone else was there and they said ‘Greece, okay, I’m in’. ”
Shortly after that she started Dora’s Greek Tours.
“We had so much fun,” said Tsagias. “I love seeing Greece through their eyes. I have never seen it as a tourist.”
Shortly after launching the tours she moved for a short stint to a small shop on Wilson Street.
“It was a great location,” said Tsagias “My neighbours were lovely but there were issues with construction and renovations. I broke the lease and then I couldn’t find anywhere. People were calling me asking for olive oil.”
She found out that the Gilded Cage in Rockwood was relocating to York Street in Guelph and arranged to look at the Main Street shop.
“When I walked in I saw what I call a soba (woodstove),” she said. “We had one like it in Greece and when the landlord lit it up I said okay. My husband Alex was saying ‘Be calm. Don’t act so eager.’ But when he walked in it brought back memories of our house in Greece and he said, ‘This is it. I see you here.’”
She opened the new Tithorea location in December just a five-minute drive from her home.“I have expanded the product line to include cheese, more sweets such as cookies and biscuits and Greek coffee,” she said. “The apricots come from the northern part of Greece and they are so good. I have my tiny kitchen and this week Alex wants to buy me a freezer and a fridge. I am hoping to get a permit to cook onsite and I am going to be part of the Rockwood Farmers Market as well. I want to stay here. I like it here.”