Tony Koutroumanis opened Yorkside Pizza & Restaurant in 1970 and has run the popular establishment ever since. The News spoke with Koutroumanis about how the weakening economy has affected his and other New Haven businesses.
Q: The economy hasn’t been doing very well. Has it affected business?
A: Definitely. A lot of my family is in the restaurant business. They are hurting. They really are. People’s business has dropped down 20 to 25 percent. That’s a lot, and it’s all due to the economy. We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of stock room downstairs and when we find out that prices are going to skyrocket, we buy a lot of stuff. The price increase on a lot of our stuff went up almost 300 percent in the last few months. We were buying a 50 lb. bag of flour just before Christmas for under $10 a bag, and then the flour went up to $40 a bag in March.
Q: Have you increased your menu prices to make up for the increased costs?
A: No, there’s been no change to menu prices. That’s where we get hurt. We change our prices here every two years. We changed them this past August just before the prices started going up and we got hurt pretty bad — not only us but everybody. In this business, it is very hard to change the menu every week or every month. You can’t do that. But a lot of people do. I heard that people who were selling a slice for $2 are now selling $3.75.
Q: So you opened Yorkside in 1970?
A:I personally opened up a place around the corner called Broadway Pizza in the building where Urban Outfitters is now in 1969 or 1970. In 1976 we came here. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but this was the worst I’ve seen. We are hurting.
Q: Even worse than the ’70s oil crisis?
A: Forget about it. That was nothing!
Q: Are your customers mainly students or New Haven locals?
A: We have locals, definitely — many of them. But the majority of our business is Yale University-affiliated. Any functions, there’s always new people around. You know how it is around here. Definitely we have our locals also; in the summer we depend on locals.
Q: Does being so close to Yale help you?
A: Yes, definitely. We are very fortunate to be in this location here. This past weekend there was a lot of activity. People come to town and have to eat somewhere. Restaurants that depend 100 percent on local business, those are the guys getting hurt the worst.
Q: Have other merchants you know seen a downturn in business?
A: No question about it. I can see it myself, and I can see my customers here also; if they were coming three to four times a week, they cut it down to once a week. I ask if there is something wrong, and they say “No, it’s the economy,” and that’s the way it goes. That’s the way I see things.