Niko's sells to Boston Pizza

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The closing and sale of Niko's Eatery and Bar in Tillsonburg will mark the end of a chapter for a local family of restauranteurs next month.

But not by any means the end of the road – Chris Kyriakopoulos, his wife Leesa, and their family are still in the food service industry. And they're staying in Tillsonburg.

The family tradition goes back almost 55 years.

"We've been in Tillsonburg since the 60s," said Chris Kyriakopoulos. "Started off with Harmony Restaurant – it was a soda shop, made our own chocolate, made our own ice cream... that was my great uncle Stan Gettis. Gettis was a huge name in Tillsonburg."

The business expanded with restaurants in Aylmer, the Golden Leaf in Delhi, Town Gate Inn in Tillsonburg at the north end of town, Nick's Pizzeria, Burgerland, Nick's at the Norfolk Mall (closed in 2006).

Niko's Eatery and Bar was the family's last restaurant, opened downtown on Broadway in 2007.

"This one was built in memory of my dad," said Chris, noting his dad, an immigrant from Thana, Greece, passed away in 1996.

"He lived in Tillsonburg almost his whole entire life. London for a while when he came over, but he settled in Tillsonburg."

Kyriakopoulos' main business is RIBA Corporation.

"I'm not totally out of the food service industry – just out of the running of restaurants business. RIBA does the purchasing for approximately 1,400 establishments in Ontario. We also have a limited number of accounts in Alberta and Quebec."

They also have a coffee distribution company out of the same building in London – they distribute coffee to more than 800 accounts in the local area.

Sitting down at Niko's Thursday morning, Kyriakopoulos admitted it didn't really sink in – the sale of the restaurant – until recently.

Borrowing a line from Delta – expect the unexpected – he said that situation came out last September.

"I had to rethink where a lot of my time was being spent. Leesa and I have four children – we're busy!

"The people who are paying the most for my absence are my kids. And my wife, but my wife isn't home either because she's transporting the kids. So when BP (Boston Pizza) approached me, I believe it was end of July/early August, it was totally unsolicited. I had some thoughts like 'hey, I've got to alleviate my schedule,' but it was unsolicited. It (Niko's) was not listed.

"It just seemed like an opportunity. And the opportunity is to primarily alleviate our schedules. Being in the restaurant industry, and having been in the restaurant industry so long, it's very intensive on time. I take my hat off to every restauranteur who devotes their lives, because that's what their doing, to satisfying their customers. The customers are always No. 1.

"We've been blessed. We have a very loyal clientele, and I was very proud of Niko's. I think it looks amazing. But you know what, it's time to move on.

"It's hard to leave a nice place, and a great staff, and a great clientele. I'm not saying we're leaving on top, but we're leaving where we should be. Because I don't compare myself to any other restaurant."

There are more than 80 eating establishments in Tillsonburg, he said, where people can get food.

"There's a lot of great restaurants in Tillsonburg. I think that BP will just complement what's already here. I think it's a very good fit. I think the footprint, the building, either met or exceeded their expectations. I think the location will benefit them for the off-time business, 10 o'clock and on. Everyone loves this hub, staying downtown. That's something that's very unique about Tillsonburg. Anybody that's really tried to open up outside the downtown, it hasn't worked.

"So when they came to me, it was the right time. And it made sense. And if it makes sense, they you've got to go through with it.

"We liquidated assets in Tillsonburg, but we're not going anywhere. My mother still lives here. We're part of the community. I've always supported the community, and there's no reason for us to go. We didn't do this to move out of town, we did this so we could actually start being customers and enjoying what the town has to offer. As opposed to being tied down to working."

chris.abbott@sunmedia.ca

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