By Ginger DeShaney
Olga Markos still remembers the coffee percolator her mom had so many years ago. She can envision it sitting on the stove. It had a glass knob so she could see the magic brewing inside.
Her mom would let young Olga take sips of coffee. “I love coffee,” Olga said. “I’ve always loved coffee.”
In her late teens, she attended a bridal shower and had her first flavored coffee: chocolate raspberry decaf. From that point on, “I was in love with flavored coffee.”
Olga turned that passion for coffee into a successful business in Boston’s Financial District, where Olga’s Kafe thrived for 23 years at 99 Summer Street, before the building’s owner wanted to go in a new direction. That shop closed on Jan. 31, 2018.
Now, Olga is bringing her java love to a new South Boston location of Olga’s Kafe, set to open any day now — after the final health department walk-through — at 206 West Broadway.
Olga will carry a variety of coffees, from regular to flavored to Greek. Olga uses flavored beans, not flavored syrups, for her brews. (She does use syrups for lattes.) She will have several hot brews and several iced coffees every day: “I see young people loving iced coffee all year round.”
At her Summer Street location, snickerdoodle coffee was the most popular, with peanut butter cup, strawberry shortcake, and chocolate mint close runners-up. She figures that may be the case in her Southie shop, too.
Olga’s also will be offering breakfast sandwiches and a variety of pastries for breakfast. Her light lunch menu will include a mac and cheese bar, grilled cheese, and more.
Olga, who grew up in Southie and still lives here, is 100 percent Greek and will feature several items imported from Greece, such as drinks and juices; the iced Greek coffee she’ll be serving (known as Greek frappe) consists of instant coffee from Greece. She will also offer the Greek delight loukoumades, or fried dough bites, with toppings.
The Southie shop will be open seven days a week and Olga plans to be there every day. She may hire two to three people, but they MUST love coffee.
The development of apartments at 206 West Broadway earmarked space for a coffee shop. Olga signed the lease in April 2019, but the residential part of the building wasn’t done until August 2019. By then, contractors were so busy with other jobs that she couldn’t nail one down to work on the shop for quite a while. Then COVID-19 hit and pushed things back even more. All the work on the shop was performed by union workers. Now she’s one health department walk-through away from being open.
The inviting space has a garage door that can be opened. Olga plans to have tables and chairs on the sidewalk during warm weather.
Coffee has run through Olga’s veins since her early teens. At 13, she got a job at Joneseez Clothing Store and would walk past 541 East Broadway on her way to work. She would think to herself: “This would be perfect for a coffee shop.”
When that location actually became a coffee shop, the Java House, one of her friends started working there and told Olga the owner was looking for more help. So Olga got a job at the Java House, working there in the morning and at Joneseez in the afternoon.
She had worked at Java House for a couple of years when the owner opened a second location in downtown Boston and offered Olga a manager job there. “Four years later, I was the place,” Olga said, noting she was the one who opened, ordered, cleaned, and did everything in between.
That owner eventually sold the shop to Olga and she renamed it Olga’s Kafe.
In 2000, Olga opened a second cafe, at 89 South Street in Southie, running both shops at the same time. But when many of the building’s nonprofit renters left after 9/11 and she became pregnant with her first child in 2003, she decided to shut down the tiny shop.
When the owners of 99 Summer Street decided to go in another direction, Olga was devastated.
“That was my whole life.”
Regulars from that location still reach out to her. “I’m still close to so many people. I made so many relationships there.”
“I loved my job for 23 years,” Olga added. “I never said, ‘I’m not going to work today.’ I loved being at work.”
She said she feels like a bartender sometimes: “People talk more during coffee. They want to talk.” And Olga is always there to listen, which would explain her dedicated following at 99 Summer. She is easy to talk to, easy to share a laugh with, easy to like.
She looks forward to creating new relationships and rekindling old ones. “I like knowing there will be new beginnings … and seeing old friends.
“I can’t wait to see who comes in,” she said. “I know so many people. This neighborhood … everyone wants to welcome me here.”
Olga’s Kafe will be open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.