Economy

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And some businesses here in the U.S. are struggling with the ripple effects of the European debt crisis. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports that's especially true for businesses with ties to Greece.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: The Prima Foods warehouse is sparsely decorated in Greek blue and white. It stocks olive oil from Crete by the drum, feta by the brick, and Kalamata olives by the barrel. The importer sits across the street from shipping containers that come into the port city of Baltimore. Prima's president is Kosta Bouyoukas. Hello.

KOSTA BOUYOUKAS: How are you?

NOGUCHI: Hey. Good.

BOUYOUKAS: Nice to meet you.

NOGUCHI: Bouyoukas looks like a Greek character from the movies. He's sturdy, he wears a gold chain, and when clients show up to pick up boxes of frozen spanakopita, he greets them with a mix of Greek and English.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROSSTALK)

BOUYOUKAS: Thank you, thank you very much.

NOGUCHI: The office he inhabits is filled with photos and posters that suggest fierce loyalty to family and heritage. Behind the small retail store in the front, there's a 4,600-square-foot warehouse.

BOUYOUKAS: Here we have juices from Greece. Like apricot and peach. Like this is pasta. It's orzo...

NOGUCHI: Prima mostly serves Italian and Greek restaurants. Normally, it receives 50,000-pound shipments every other week. Nowadays that's less reliable.

BOUYOUKAS: The Greek government, right now, it's a mess. We place order - usually it takes 19 days to get here, and now it takes about 40 days because they have strikes on the ports, they have all these things happening every day.

NOGUCHI: In addition to this, Prima Foods is getting squeezed by the exchange rate. Its suppliers, especially in Greece, are changing the terms of contracts.

BOUYOUKAS: Instead 60 days, they want to get paid in 35 or 40 days now.

NOGUCHI: And you're OK with that?

BOUYOUKAS: I don't have a problem.

NOGUCHI: But then you get mad when they don't ship it?

BOUYOUKAS: I get mad because I depend on those products.

NOGUCHI: Shipping, though it's less reliable, also costs more as fuel prices rise. This gets passed along to customers, whose gripes fall back on Bouyoukas. Bouyoukas says it's stressful seeing his business buffeted by the eurozone's problems.

BOUYOUKAS: We don't think two years down the road anymore; it's just what happens today, next week, a month from now, you know, that's how it is. Because we don't have no control over what happens in Greece.

NOGUCHI: It's not just that importers like Bouyoukas have struggled; U.S.-based exporters also face problems. Sharon Doherty is president and CEO of Vellus, a small business in Columbus, Ohio that manufactures and exports shampoos for show dogs. Doherty has distributors she ships to in dozens of countries, including Japan, Singapore and around Europe. She expected to start with her first Greek distributor last year.

SHARON DOHERTY: And she was so excited. I mean I received so many emails from her, telephone calls, we were going to order her banners. And it was going so good. It's like it just happened all of a sudden.

NOGUCHI: What happened was Greek's debt became unsustainable. It requested a bailout from the rest of Europe, and the chaos led the distributor to cancel the deal. That wasn't all. The currency fluctuations prompted other European buyers to start buying in smaller quantities.

DOHERTY: I mean, to be honest with you, I was worried about it. I didn't know how it was going to go. When they're hurting, you're hurting. So you need to find out what you can do to help them.

NOGUCHI: She's offered discounts, which have helped her sales recover. She's now following the news and hoping for the best, because what's good for Europe is also good for her. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

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