John and Gloria Arestis opened Golden Griddle Restaurant and Pancake House with one goal in mind: help their two children and specifically, send them to college.
Over fourteen years later, they have accomplished much more than that.
In a time when independent, family-style restaurants seem to be shuttered everywhere, the Arestis have built a popular eatery at 3030 W. 95th St., Evergreen Park.
Times were tough in the beginning, with Gloria working another job to bring in a paycheck. John worked seven days a week to keep the business going. Times are tough again, with the great recession; but unlike other family owned restaurants, the Arestis are hanging in there. The couple works at the restaurant seven days a week, greeting and serving customers.
“You have to be willing to work hard and honest,” John says, or as he also put it, “When you get on the dance floor you have to dance; or they’ll step all over you.”
He not only credits his success to hard work, but also to other factors.
“We have survived because we are a family owned and operated restaurant and treat people like they’ve come home,” John says.
“I knew the business and know where to buy better products and serve the best food,” he adds.
The oldest of seven in a Greek family, John came to the U.S. in 1977 and settled in Oak Lawn and later, Justice. He learned his craft in other restaurants, like the former Theodore’s Restaurant in Evergreen Park and the former Paragon Restaurant in Oak Lawn, taking on the roles of cook and manager. He also was a working partner at Lumes in Oak Brook. After marrying, John and Gloria raised their children in Justice and then moved to Orland Park.
John said he uses “upscale products” to serve his customers and is especially proud of his crepes and omelets. His soup doesn’t come in a bucket off the back of a truck. “We make homemade soup that we’re proud of. It is different from other family restaurants,” he says.
There’s something very familiar on the menu as well. It’s prices.
“We haven’t raised prices in three years. It’s not because I’m trying to be a nice guy, it’s because people don’t have the money,” John says.
There is another reason the Golden Griddle has survived while other family owned restaurants have closed their doors, the support of the community which it serves.
“They have adopted and supported us, everyone from the people who live and work around here to the village officials who have given us respect. It takes the support of society, of the village, everyone who has kept up with us all these years,” John says.
Respect and loyalty go both ways, even in a down economy.
“The restaurant maybe worth more closed than open, but we it’s more about what we owe to society, to the village, to those who supported us,” he says “People know us by name, people respect us, from village officials on down.”
John adds, “I hope things start rolling again. The economy will get going again. We will survive these times."
The children, a son and daughter, that the Arestis’ wanted to support and send to college have fulfilled that goal. Their daughter is a nurse at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and their son studied law enforcement. He is job searching, like many his age, but has applications in at many law enforcement agencies.
“The kids got caught in bad times, but the kids will find their way,” John says.
While the future may be economically uncertain, and there are no big plans for a big 15th year celebration, John and Gloria Arestis are “taking one thing at a time.”
“Maybe the kids will want to take over the restaurant some day,” he says.