For Greg Condonopoulos transitioning from a high-level executive of a publicly-traded company to the owner of one of Penticton’s most iconic eating establishments has been as smooth as a gentle Mediterranean breeze.
In fact, when he got the keys to Theo’s Restaurant July 1 from the Theodosakis family, for him it was very much a home coming.
“I ran it before and it’s not run any differently than it was 25 years ago, except I had hair back then,” said Condonopoulos with a laugh. “Theo’s is just such a huge part of the community, the fabric of the community — kind of the glue that holds a lot of the things together here.
“In my view, it’s even more popular than city hall. aA lot of deals have been done in this restaurant, anniversaries, first dates, weddings, wakes, a lot of memories since 1976.”
Even though it’s been two months since taking over he admits it’s still a little hard to fathom the change.
“The reality of it being my own restaurant hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Condonopoulos. “I guess I may never consider this my own, it’s always Theo’s restaurant and I’m just kind of the guy who just came along to carry on the legend.”
To help make the transition, Theodosakis himself still comes in most mornings to sit at his favourite table and have a cup of coffee with his friends, a long-time ritual he is not about to give up, and as well to provide some helpful advice to his successor.
“I didn’t ask him to,” said Condonopoulos. “He just thought it was the right thing to do to come in. That’s the kind of people I’m dealing with.”
Although he did say Theodosakis actually “bossed him around” one day for not being on the floor soon enough.
“But really Theo’s been one of my main mentors like a dad almost. People just love to see him and he’s been so gracious reintroducing me to the regulars,” said Condonopoulos.
For his part, Theodosakis didn’t think twice about offering the business to his former manager.
“He knows the business and I know he’ll be a success,” said Theodosakis, who along with his wife Mary, in large part, introduced the Greek food to locals. “It’s nice to see the place keep going because I spent 43 years here with the family and made a lot of nice friends and I’m very happy to see the place keep going and being a success.”
According to Condonopoulos the reception he’s received from customers and staff has been “overwhelming.”
While he’s already added a few touches of his own, including a belly dancer Friday and Saturday nights, for the most part the restaurant is going to remain status quo for now.
“Why would I?” he replied to the question of changing things. “A lot of people get their egos involved, and arguably I could maybe say my hummus recipe is better and I’m going to change it, but why would I do something as foolish as that?”
Condonopoulos however does plan to keep the fun times going a little later at night and indulge that family atmosphere patrons love most.
“We’re also planning a big New Years Eve party with live entertainment like we used to in the old days,” he added.
Condonopoulos will continue evolve the menu to include customer preferences such as gluten free and vegan but there is one certainty:
“It will always be a Greek restaurant you will never see pizza or hamburgers on our menu. That’s what people want when they come in here, is Greek food,” he said. “You’re creating an experience between trying to engage all the senses, sight sound, temperature, smell, taste and that’s the goal and so far it’s been pretty darn good.”
Chef David Stern will continue to stay on in the kitchen using the experience he has gained from the Theodosakis family the past six years as well as his trips to Greece to fine tune his offerings
Along with the business of running the restaurant Condonopoulos plans to get actively involved in the community including joining the local Rotary club.