Yianni Chalkias started King Gyros in 1991 to feed his soul, his passion and his community. Nearly 30 years later, his passion infects his employees, and the foodies of Whitehall and the surrounding communities are reaping the rewards of his success.
With experience working with spices starting at the age of eight with his father, Yianni admits that he has always had a passion for the food industry. Moving with his family to Cleveland from Greece in 1976 and working in restaurants alongside family members, Yianni’s story was being written before he even had a chance to contemplate life and its possibilities. He shares, however, that he made food service his world by choice…following in the family’s footsteps was never a second thought.
Success with his bottom-line and with employee retention seems to be directly correlated to his passion. This is a recurring theme and possibly even a requirement for employment at King Gyros, but it is also a clear and recognizable trait of not only Yianni, but additionally of one of his managers, Stefanie Huber. A passion for food, a passion for serving the customers the highest quality food, a passion for being prepared, and a passion for working as a team all come together to boost Stefanie’s zest for customer service, and her commitment to Yianni as if he was part of her own family.
Stefanie has encountered a few struggles in life, and Yianni never faulted her for those. Yianni built a relationship of trust and teamwork that guides Stefanie, and other employees, providing a sense of security and grounding her to a place that she can literally call home. With employees that honestly feel ownership in its success, King Gyros is able to make their mark on the Greek casual dining market in the Central Ohio area even with only one location on the east side of Columbus.
Yianni opened King Gyros in a renovated Taco Bell building in Whitehall with the idea of providing Greek and Mediterranean specialties – fast, fresh gourmet food. He soon realized that his available dining space accommodated a Mexican fast-food clientele and was not large enough to add to his dream of providing a fast-casual dining experience. Yianni distinctly remembers Scott McComb, CEO of Heartland Bank, lunching in the tiny space, pre-renovation, and remarking how he understood why he needed a loan!
Yianni would need a loan to add an addition and driving past the Hamilton Road Gahanna Heartland Bank branch one day on his way to work, he felt drawn to the white, stately columns of this Georgian-style building. Why? It might be the fact that King Gyros’ architecture boasts several Ionic Greek columns of its own on the very welcoming, intricately painted portico. This subliminal connection would lead to approval of his loan, and the ability for Yianni to add a dining feature to the right side of his building, complete with the brightly, colored Greek-themed paintings.
Recently, when the pandemic closed his dining room, the carry-out service and drive-through option became increasingly popular, and Yianni actually has been experiencing an increase in his business. He’s thankful for this as he was able to retain most of his employees and even hired additional people in the recent months.
When asked about future plans, Yianni said, “I go deep instead of wide…like a tree that just gets bigger.” He wants to be excellent at what he does from this one location, and he can’t be excellent if his time is split between more than one facility.
If you’re looking for a bank that has the passion and excellence demonstrated by King Gyros, come on over to Heartland and start a new banking relationship!