Originally brought to the community by Nick Koulouris, Grecian Gyro opened its doors in 1982 and quickly became a Hapeville mainstay - serving authentic Greek food like souvlaki, falafel, feta pita and more. The restaurant is approaching its 40th anniversary this year, and Nick’s son, George, is excited to continue paying homage to his Greek heritage, co-owning and operating seven metro Atlanta locations.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and the restaurant’s background?
GK: My father, Nick Koulouris, opened Grecian Gyro in 1982, located on Virginia Avenue in Hapeville. As an immigrant, he saved all his money to open the shop and eventually went all in. My father created his own version of a classic gyro and really helped him gain popularity in the community - our gyro does not have tzatziki, which has not been done before and became a huge hit with our customers. We quickly became the dining destination in town, winning awards in the 90s for best gyro and best Greek restaurant. The food and the people really show how hard we’ve worked, and determination can pay off.
My brother and I grew up in the restaurant, and customers would even take care of us as our parents worked. It was - and still is - a classic family environment, and we were raised by so many people in the Grecian Gyro community. In 2007, my brother and I quit our jobs to pursue our dream of making Grecian Gyro a generational business, taking ownership of the Hapeville location and continuing our family legacy.
We now have seven metro Atlanta locations, with spots in Dunwoody, Forest Park, Johns Creek, Midtown, Snellville and Tucker joining the original Hapeville restaurant. We take pride knowing each meal is made with fresh ingredients and is authentic to our Greek heritage - made mostly with ingredients from the farmer’s market, channeling the true nature of Mediterranean food. We offer dishes for every dietary lifestyle - including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options - and make it easy for everyone to find a delicious meal when they walk through our doors.
Q: What are your goals for Grecian Gyro in the future?
GK: Our primary goal has always been to establish Grecian Gyro as a great place to eat and work. Watching our father run the business with pride, high-quality leadership and respect for each employee made us determined to carry on his legacy. Grecian Gyro is truly a family environment, full of support and appreciation for each person - including employees and customers.
In the future, we’d love to continue giving back to the community that has given so much to our family over the years, and we strive to continue providing customers with the same environment they know and love.
Q: How do you believe Grecian Gyro contributes to your community?
GK: We really thrive on providing jobs to people in the community. Our father treated everyone with care, and Grecian Gyro’s staff were treated as family. Growing up, employees always told us that our father was a wonderful boss, and it taught us what it means to be a business owner, how to treat customers and employees, alongside how to run a community-led establishment. We are committed to paying back each chance we get, whether it’s sponsoring local schools or organizations, and it’s become a tradition to continually support our neighborhood.
Q: What are some challenges you’ve faced as a business owner? How have you overcome them?
GK: As we near 40 years of business, we’ve experienced many challenges and have come out stronger on the other side. We watched our father have plentiful years - and some years of struggle - and have learned that as an entrepreneur, you must plow through whatever you face and problem solve to make it through.
We opened our first expansion during the recession, and the world was crumbling around us. It was one of the hardest times to be a business owner; we had to maneuver, strategize and lean into our business plan. We’ve all faced a similar situation with the pandemic, and our family feels so grateful that our efforts to stay afloat have been effective. The restaurant did not cut hours, have any layoffs or experience cases of COVID-19. It feels amazing to get through these tough times and thrive on the other side.
Q: What is a business accomplishment you’re really proud of?
GK: Last year, we opened a location in Midtown - the first Grecian Gyro in the city, which was a huge deal for us. We also recently debuted our ice cream brand, although it’s not in the Hapeville location just yet but will be coming to Tucker soon. Izzy’s Ice Kreme was inspired by our family trip to Greece, celebrating a cousin’s wedding, and is a play on classic Greek frozen yogurt. We serve our scoops with a choice of honey, nuts, fresh fruit or European-style toppings - including Nutella and Nescafe. The ice cream has been really popular, and we’re excited to continue coming up with new, creative offerings for our guests.