Cedar Rapids' 'Greek Place' May Relocate for Kum & Go Project
By Dave DeWitte, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Cedar Rapids' only Greek restaurant, a Mount Vernon Road landmark for 35 years, plans to relocate early next year to make way for a Kum 'n Go convenience store.
Vernon Inn/The Greek Place, will close at the end of this year if a deal in the works with Kum & Go convenience store chain is completed, owner Basil Hadjis said. It will relocate to 2874 Mount Vernon Road in March or early April.
The new restaurant will offer take out foods from the menus of the Vernon Inn and Sweet Basil's Pizza Pie, Hadjis said. The latter restaurant was formerly operated by Hadjis at the 2874 Mount Vernon Road location, but was combined with the Vernon Inn location.
The Vernon Inn gained a strong and loyal following among Cedar Rapids diners for its authentic Greek fare, intimate atmosphere and good service over the years. Hadjis said the full-service segment of the restaurant industry has declined during the recession, however, and he began to consider selling the restaurant.
"It takes a tremendous amount of passion, energy and love," Hadjis said. "I call it a young peoples' job."
Hadjis asked his children, Katie, Amie, and Theo, if they were interested in taking over the restaurant. All had worked in the restaurant growing up, and Katie still works in the business.
"Each one of them said, "We grew up with it. We loved it. But we don't want to spend the rest of our lives doing it," Hadjis related. "Honestly I was kind of glad to hear that. The industry has changed, and you're married to it. When you own a restaurant, you eat, sleep and breathe it."
Over the last decade or so, Hadjis said the restaurant industry has shifted away from the full-service dining concept to "fast casual," a concept that is usually lower priced and doesn't include full table service. If the take out restaurant is successful, Hadjis said he may pursue opening one or more Greek-themed fast casual restaurants.
The restaurant was opened by Hadjis and his brother Demetrios, on Feb. 6, 1976 Basil's 21st birthday – in the former Ye Old Vernon Inn. It it was a traditional Greek taverna serving foods from the family recipes of their father, Stavros, who had always dreamed of opening a restaurant.
Within a few years of opening, Stavros, who had been helping as a prep chef part-time, left his job at Penick & Ford to go full-time, and Demtrios left to pursue other interests.
Hadjis said it was a challenge for the restaurant even to survive during the prolonged traffic relocation caused by the multiyear Mount Vernon Road widening project. He credits the support of his wife, Lynn, loyal customers and employees for the restaurant's longevity.
A rezoning petition filed with the City of Cedar Rapids seeks to rezone the property from three different zoning classifications to C-3 commercial designation for a convenience store.