She's Spreading Happiness one Bite at a Time

“I’ve always wanted to open a café,” Antonia, owner and operator of Leonidas Woodbridge, explains. “Initially, I wanted to bring something a little different to the neighbourhood, something with a bit of a Greek twist to it. I was thinking some Greek pastries, some coffee…”

But fate intervened in the form of a friend who introduced her to Leonidas chocolate.

“He literally showed up at my doorstep with a sack of chocolates for me to try!”

It was love at first bite, and Antonia knew then that she had found something special.

“It’s probably some of the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted.”

High praise coming from a self-proclaimed foodie. So while the chocolates didn’t fit her original vision, Antonia decided to change course, still including Greek classics like mouth-watering mini baklavas and light-as-air kok, but focusing more heavily on the Leonidas brand.

“The founder is Greek, so it kind of tied in together with my theme,” she mentions with a little shrug. “And it kind of evolved from there.”

Product line established, Antonia now had to find a place to bring her vision to life.

“I didn’t even see the space,” she marvels. “My brother just went out for a drive, saw the for-lease sign, called the number, and signed!”

But sure enough, she fell in love with the location, which boasts a pedestrian-friendly, European vibe, in keeping with her Mediterranean theme.

Antonia lost no time in getting to work, but unforeseen zoning and permit issues delayed her progress. Then, once she received approval to proceed, Covid hit and put a stop to her plans. Though the store was ready for business in September 2020,

“Everything was opening and closing. We didn’t know what was going on.”

As a result, Antonia made the difficult decision to postpone her Grand Opening until things settled down. But in February 2021, her brother challenged her decision.

“He said, ‘We can close the door and cut our losses, or we can open up and see what happens,’” she relays. “At that point, we’ve come this far, we have a store ready… You know what? Let’s just take our chances.”

His words struck a chord, and Antonia once more decided to roll with the punches.

“My thought was, with everything going on in the world, we’re giving people happiness. It’s chocolate and ice cream and pastries and coffee. It’s a happy, feel-good thing. Who wouldn’t want that right now?”

Though she had no idea of how people in the community would respond, especially during such difficult times, Antonia went ahead with a soft opening, owing to covid regulations. But despite the limitations, Leonidas saw a huge turnout as the community came out to welcome the newest addition to the neighbourhood.

“I’ve met so many amazing people,” Antonia beams. “I love coming here and talking with people. We have really great customers, not to mention an amazing team! I wouldn’t be able to do it without the hard work and dedication of my staff – not to mention my brother!”

If the bright and cheery disposition of her staff or the lines that regularly snake across the patio and onto the sidewalk are any indication, it’s obvious that the feeling is mutual.

“People ask, ‘Don’t you get nervous when it’s busy?’” Antonia shares, leaning in as though about to reveal a juicy secret. “But I don’t.”

“I get in a zone, I love what I do, and that’s my reward.”

Though the little shop requires a substantial amount of time and energy, Antonia insists that it doesn’t make her tired.

“I don’t complain about being here. I walk in the door and think, ‘I’m where I’m supposed to be.’”

And that’s because Leonidas is more than just a hobby or even a career.

“This is my heart. Everything I do in here, I do with love.”

And that is precisely what makes Leonidas – and its owner – so extraordinary.

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