The Aslanidis family came to the United States from Greece in 1966, traveling for two weeks by ship. The family eventually moved to Columbia, where they now operate a string of restaurants.
Alex Aslanidis, now 42, was only 2 years old when he arrived in the United States with his father, Gus; mother, Kasiani; brothers Jimmy and Angelo; and sister, Maria.
He said the family realized they had arrived in the U.S. when they saw one of the nation’s most famous and historic landmarks.
“The first thing we saw was the Statue of Liberty,” he said.
Gus Aslanidis, Alex’s 76-year-old father, owns G&D Steakhouse on Worley Street. The restaurant opened in 1970 as the second G&D location, a year after the first G&D opened in the space now occupied by Tonic.
Since then, Columbia has become more developed with restaurants and heavier traffic, changing the dynamics of the business, Alex Aslanidis said.
He said the increase in traffic congestion hinders people from making a trip across town to eat at G&D during their lunch break, which leads to a less busy lunch hour.
But Gus Aslanidis, who is retired, still goes to the restaurant every morning to open it. “If you open up a place, you’ve got to (be) there with your customers,” he said.
Twelve percent of family businesses continue into the third generation, according to the University of North Carolina-Asheville Family Business Forum. That number falls to 3 percent in the fourth generation. Still, family-owned businesses account for 60 percent of national employment, 78 percent of new jobs and 50 percent of the gross domestic product.
Alex Aslanidis and his brother Angelo, 54, now run G&D Steakhouse. One of the traditions they’ve maintained is getting to know their customers.
“We don’t write down orders here,” Alex Aslanidis said. “When you look someone in the eye, you’ll remember what they’ve ordered.”
Regulars can walk into the restaurant and have someone start cooking their food before they utter a word, Alex Aslanidis said.
In 1991, Jimmy Aslanidis took lessons learned from the family business and opened his own restaurant, Jimmy’s Family Steakhouse. His sister, Maria Aslanidis, 48, works as a waitress at G&D Steakhouse and Jimmy’s Family Steakhouse.
Jimmy Aslanidis, 56, also brought his father’s work ethic to the new eatery. “(Gus) taught us how to work — not by the clock, but by finishing the job,” he said.
The Aslanidis siblings learned these lessons while working at G&D during their midteens. That introduction to the family business has become a tradition.
Kasandra Aslanidis, Alex’s 18-year-old daughter, has worked at G&D for two years. She attends a nearby college and plans to become a nurse or forensic scientist.
“Though my heart wants her here, I want her to do what she wants,” Alex Aslanidis said.
Both Jimmy and Angelo Aslanidis have sons named Gus in the business; it’s Greek tradition to honor older generations by naming children after them.
Jimmy’s son, Gus, 28, works at Jimmy’s Family Steakhouse, and Jimmy said Gus will likely take over someday. Angelo’s son, Gus, 27, opened his own businesses: Gus’ Pizza and Grille, Pizza Subs and Wings, and he is part owner of The Zou Pub and Grill, which is also owned by his cousin, Alex Ligonis.
As the younger members of the Aslanidis family make their mark, a number of Columbia families continue to work through the challenges and rewards of working and, occasionally, living together.
The businesses profiled on the following pages and online at ColumbiaMissourian.com range from a jewelry store and candy shop to a newspaper company and a stationery store, and they’re just some of Columbia’s family-owned businesses. But they have at least one thing in common: It’s all in the family.