A family tradition
After nearly 16 years of business in E.L., Georgio’s founders continue expanding
Georgio’s pizza is an Alimonos family tradition that began in Greece in the 1970s, when George Alimonos, the now-retired Georgio’s franchise co-founder, opened Greece’s second modern pizzeria. His cousins opened the first.
Now, about 16 years after Alimonos opened the first Georgio’s location at 120 Charles St., the brand — and family — continues to expand. The Alimonos’ opened their fourth Mid-Michigan location Monday, a Mexican grill with a Mediterranean flair called Señor Georgio’s.
And for the Alimonos family — owners, co-owners and workers alike — a different take hopefully will translate into a recipe for success.
Tasos Alimonos, co-owner of the new restaurant and son of George Alimonos, now is running the family business as his father enjoys retirement in Greece.
In 1984, George Alimonos’ first business ventures in the U.S. began to form. At that time, he was asked to be a partner for a restaurant near the University of Massachusetts.
“My dad decided it was a good investment, and that’s when we opened the first pizza place in the States,” Tasos Alimonos said.
After success near a university, the Alimonos’ looked to expand to a Midwestern college campus. There was a potential location in Ann Arbor, but East Lansing was the better choice, Tasos Alimonos said.
There was a niche to be filled here, despite some skepticism about an additional pizzeria.
“They had no idea what we were going to bring,” Tasos Alimonos said.
Mixing it up
The Alimonos family’s newest venture is Señor Georgio’s, located at 403 E. Grand River Ave. The restaurant aims to bring new flavors by mixing Mediterranean ingredients with Mexican spices and cuisine, said co-owner Vackis Nickolau.
“We thought to combine the two and do the Mexican cuisine with a flair where we combine some pizzeria items with a twist to make a more unique burrito and taco,” he said.
Although Mexican food is abundant on campus, Tasos Alimonos said with his restaurant’s unique style, it will be able to find its place in the market.
“Mexican food is very popular nowadays and students like it a lot, as much as they like pizza,” Tasos Alimonos said.
Señor Georgio’s is different than other Mexican grills, said comparative culture and politics junior Becky Mayernick, who works at the restaurant.
“They care more about their product,” she said. “It’s a higher quality product.”
Making it work
Although Señor Georgio’s opened during the summer when the bulk of MSU students are gone, the business partners said they hope to fine-tune the staff’s performance and the food’s flavor in the months leading up to students’ return.
“When the students come back we’ll be ready for the high volume,” Nickolau said.
Understanding the East Lansing market is one of the reasons the Georgio’s restaurants are successful, said Tim Dempsey, East Lansing’s director of planning and development.
“It’s not unusual for businesses that have an established track record to expand,” he said. “They’ve been around so long … they can handle the economic changes better.”
Dempsey also said prosperous businesses combine quality products and good service.
All food at the Georgio’s restaurants is homemade and fresh, a practice to be continued at the new restaurant, Tasos Alimonos said.
Another positive quality is the family, despite the arguments that occur. Tasos’ sister, Maria Hruska, a co-owner of one of the restaurants, said she is more comfortable leaving when she knows family is there to take over.
“You can trust them,” she said. “It’s better than leaving a stranger in charge.”
With 15 years of experience owning restaurants in Mid-Michigan, there are benefits to keeping business in the family, Tasos Alimonos said.
“Of course, if your dad is the owner of the place, you can yell at him and you won’t get fired,” he said.