Greek food fans say goodbye to Nick
Nick Papadakis, founder of Nick’s Greek Café in Snow Creek Plaza, is looking for someone to buy his successful restaurant after doctors discovered cancer in its advanced stages in his left lung.
He’s only hoping to recover some of the money he’s invested in the place, and says the landlord is great to work with. The equipment is top-of-the-line and he gets great local business.
Speaking of his regulars brings tears the graying immigrant’s eyes.
People who normally came a few times a month have now been stopping in daily to see how he is. One person recently left him a $100 tip.
"They like you, you know people feel sorry for me and it means they like you," he said Wednesday. "People love our food. The reviewers say it’s the best Greek. Everything was all right up until two weeks ago."
Papadakis, who got his start in Park City selling fur coats and running a gift shop, said he had a cold that kept getting worse. Fearing pneumonia, he went in for x-rays and serious cancer growth was found.
"I didn’t want to sell. It’s very tough. I never was sick, I never had problems," he said.
Papadakis studied electrical and mechanical engineering at university in Greece. He paid his way through school working in restaurants. His first job after moving to New York City was in the business.
An entrepreneur, Papadakis found success in the fur industry. He fell in love with a Utah woman late in life, he said, and moved to Park City. After running two stores here, he shifted to gift and souvenir retail. The idea of serving Greek food came during a slump after the 2002 Winter Olympics.
"I know the restaurant business and even if times are tough, people have to eat. It’s a tough business, but if you treat them well, they have to eat. They don’t have to buy a magnet," he said.
After selling a formal, sit-down restaurant at Kimball Junction a few years ago, he opened a more modest location in Snow Creek Plaza.
With little overhead, good equipment, an understanding landlord and the right customers, things were going well. The recession took its toll, he said, but he was surviving.
Friday, Papadakis began chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He said its success will depend on how his body reacts. He worries for his children. His oldest daughter graduates from Stanford University next month. His son is at Middlebury College and another daughter is at Reed College in Portland, Ore.
There’s no reason to close shop, he said. All the elements needed for success are present. In three years he only had one complaint. He also recently invested a large amount of money into a remodel and kitchen upgrades. His wife will run the restaurant if he cannot until it’s sold.
Papadakis said he’s done business all over the United States and loves it here.
"Seriously, in Park City you deal with the nicest people," he said.
The secret to success is simple, Papadakis explained. Keep the place really clean and be consistent with quality. If those two elements are there, customers don’t worry as much about price. Quality costs, but if people get it, they’re happy, he said.
He currently seats 50 people inside, with an outside seating area for nearly 30 more. The space can be expanded and gets good traffic from the grocery market and liquor store.
"I want to thank the people in Park City for their support and the way they treat us," he said. "People are coming in every day to see how I am."
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