After working in restaurants for 35 years, the last decade as a district manager for a bakery cafe chain, Peter Bizoukas was surprised when he was downsized.
"I loved my job," Bizoukas said.
The 51-year old checked corporate America options, he said, but found he was boxed in by his previous high earnings and experience. Many would not hire him for less, fearful he would leave when a better opportunity came along, he said.
Stir crazy after previously interacting with people all day, every day in his job, Bizoukas said he eventually saw restaurant ownership as a way to feed his people-person sensibilities..
"Owning a business had not been my dream. It was the best option. I do believe for every bad thing in life, you can make something good of it," Bizoukas said.
During a recent, late breakfast hour, Bizoukas' pleasure was evident as he easily chatted up customers.
The decision to buy the well-established Michael's Restaurant from Mike and Carol Kirincic was a good one, he said. The value was in the name and recipes more than the physical plant.
"Eighty percent of restaurants fail in the first year," he said.
Some of the established clientele visit Michael's more than once daily.
"We kept the staff. They're really good. Some have been here over 20 years, and the customers love them," Bizoukas said.
Bizoukas and his wife Penny, who has a full-time job elsewhere, plan to update the decor soon, but otherwise, they won't mess with success.
"I'm proudest of the food. It's excellent, typical Greek diner fare," Bizoukas said. "Everything is fresh. We roast our turkeys daily. You can taste the difference. Nothing is processed," he said.
Eventually, the couple plan to put their focus on the banquet room, which holds up to 70 people.
In honor of the location, it will be dubbed the Port de Leau banquet room and be redecorated with a nautical theme.
Bizoukas said the family style fare for groups from 10 people upward is a good buy at an average cost of $10 to $15 per person.
On any given day, Bizoukas may be found on his hands and knees cleaning floors or doing any other task in the business. "I lead by example," he said. His wife sometimes helps and their 16-year daughter will be pitching in. Perhaps their 10-year old son will have a job there, too, he said.
"To be in the restaurant business and be successful, you have to love it. ... I'm going to do well for myself and my family here," Bizoukas said.