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How to Turn a Neutral Business Space Into a Neighborhood Gem Think Greek in Port St. Lucie, Florida, is an award-winning restaurant whose customers return for both the food and the community. Read how this food truck turned brick and mortar uses creativity to find success.

By Emily Washcovick

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy of Think Greek

Neighborhood gems often have a special sauce—something that makes them stand out from the competition and chain restaurants. For Think Greek in Port St. Lucie, Florida, that special sauce is more than their tzatziki. The family-owned restaurant has won the hearts of its customers by providing authentic Greek food and a dining atmosphere that shows them they're family too.

Even those just passing through town, like Yelp reviewer Andi P., can't help but notice there's something unique about Think Greek, despite its unassuming storefront in a cookie-cutter shopping center.

"I believe in 'strip mall gourmet.' I think that some of the best local businesses get their start in nondescript strip malls. And this was one of those spots," Andi said. "As soon as we pulled up, I was already super excited because usually, when something looks maybe not the prettiest, but they have such good reviews, I know it's gonna be one of those perfect hidden gems."

According to General Manager Rosanne Leo, decorating the space to feel cozy and inviting was an important element in crafting a sense of community.

"Since we live in the community, everything [we do] is around our community. You wanna make your community feel part of what you have," Rosanne said.

A key part of this is the "Show Us Some Love" wall, which allows customers to leave their mark with every visit.

"[It] started out as one random wall. Now it has morphed into two walls because the kids come with their parents, and they eat and like to draw a picture or write a little message or write their name. We're going on five years. I have a customer who came in and her child was two, and now he's seven. [Another was] 10 and now she's 15. So we have grown up with these families. It's just amazing. They put their tallies every time they come. And it's just a cool thing that we thought would include our customers, who are our neighbors, into our space."

That welcoming feeling permeates everything the Think Greek staff does—from the authentic family recipes to the furniture, cut, sanded, and stained by the owner.

"As soon as we walked in, it was like transporting to a different place," Andi said. "It was so obvious that they've put care and time into making the place super inviting and make it feel like you're part of the family there."

Food trucks and brick-and-mortar stores alike can learn helpful takeaways from Think Greek's experiences, including:

  • Personalizing your space. Standing out is key to attracting customers, and putting extra thought into presentation can help customers feel like their presence—and not just their dollars—is important to you.
  • Balancing old and new. Authentic recipes are treasured heirlooms, but putting a fresh twist on a tried-and-true dish can wow customers and garner acclaim. Don't be afraid to get creative in the kitchen.
  • Taking criticism in stride. Feedback on your products, services, or dishes can be very personal. Reading and responding to both positive and critical reviews can help you engage with customers who sing your praises and those who are trying to help your business improve with constructive advice.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Rosanne and Andi, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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