“We love people and we love food. Just look at us,” laughs Greg Skillas, patting his belly.
He and brother Chris grew up in the restaurant business and say they know the recipe for success. They own and operate Mike’s Pizza at Eastland Plaza, Christo’s Pizza & Burgers at 415 Exmouth Street, and are about to open a third location in Bright’s Grove.
From as far back as they can remember the Skillas brothers have worked in a restaurant kitchen. Their father, Nick, is the former owner of Lee’s Snackhouse on Campbell Street.
The family-owned diner was the backdrop to Chris and Greg’s childhood.
“While all our friends slept until three in the afternoon, we were up at 7 a.m. cookin’ and cleanin’ and preppin’,” said Greg.
After graduating from St. Patrick’s High School, Chris, 38, left Sarnia to become a refrigeration mechanic and gas tech in Windsor. Greg, 34, also graduated from St. Pat’s and earned a degree in open (computer) systems at Baker College in Michigan. The restaurant business seemed far from mind.
But 15 years later, fate stepped in and Chris found that, without entry into the union, he had a dead-end job.
“Besides, my wife was American and she needed a job here,” he said.
When Mike’s Pizza, an established business, went on the market, he decided to return to his roots. He bought Mike’s and never looked back.
“I didn’t realize how much I loved the restaurant business,” Chris said.
In late 2012, Chris found a second location, “almost a turnkey operation,” that he bought and named Christo’s. Specializing in burgers, pizza, salads and wings, Christo’s was successful but the hours were long.
In 2013, Chris put a call into his brother who was working in Waterloo and offered an opportunity to return to Sarnia.
“Cooking has always been a passion for us. The next thing I knew, my wife Julie and I were partners with Chris and his wife Christina,” said Greg.
The Skillas brothers are opening Christo’s in the Grove at 2600 Lakeshore Road in early April.
Their secret? Fresh food and a desire to see people enjoy it, they say.
“We don’t have chef certificates but we know how to cook and we can take the pressure. That’s what it’s all about,” said Chris.
DELUXE BUILD-YOUR-OWN BURGER
Triple burger (three fresh ground beef patties prepared on a grill)
Tomato, onions, pickles, blue cheese, caramelized onion, chili, egg over easy, peameal bacon, feta cheese, tzatziki sauce, Christo sauce (sweet and tangy).
Fresh cut potatoes
Feta cheese, tzatziki sauce, green peppers, green olives, green onions, tomato, oregano and more feta cheese on top.
– Cathy Dobson