Louie Vavoularis is the type of guy who, after talking to him for five minutes, you feel like you’ve known him for years.
The 58-year-old native of Greece has an easygoing personality that makes him come across as a lovable uncle, and his presence combined with excellent service and tasty meals have made a favorite breakfast and lunch spot for locals and visitors to Palm Harbor.
In the 25 years since he has been the proprietor of Emily’s, Vavoularis has seen a lot of changes in the community, met a lot of people and, most importantly, made a lot of lasting friendships.
The gregarious Greek restaurant owner sat down with Palm Harbor Patch and expressed what he loves so much about his business, and what happens when he walks down the street.
What is the best part about owning a small local restaurant?
I’ve gotten to know thousands and thousands of people over the years. My goal has always been to have customers and friends. I value their patronage, but I value their friendship, also.
I also support a lot of local businesses and charities, and in turn they support me. That’s how it should be.
What is it that makes you and your restaurant so popular with locals and visitors?
Well, first is the food. I have used the same supplier all these years, so the food has consistency. I will never compromise quality for cost. Also, I have one waitress who has been here for 20 years, another for 15 years, another for 12 years and another for 10 years. People know us. They see our faces every day, and they appreciate that.
I’ve always said if you provide fair prices, good food, good service, honesty and fairness, you’ll have a customer for life.
Being entrenched in the community for 25 years, you must be pretty well known.
I live right down the road in Crystal Beach, and I can’t go home without waving to 10 people a day. I can’t go anywhere without running into someone saying, “Hey, Louie!”
But that’s why I love this job so much. I’m just fortunate to be here. I’ve had opportunities to move along, start other businesses, but to me, this is home. I always say I was born Greek, but I’m American by choice!
Who is Emily?
Emily is a close family relative who bought this restaurant in 1986. I took it over from her in 1987. She retired recently and lives nearby, and we are very close. I talk to her twice a day, and she still comes in here to eat.
Sometimes I’ll joke with her on stressful days and say, “Do you want to take the business back?” But she knows I’m only kidding. I wouldn’t trade this for the world.
Address: 2609 Alternate U.S. 19 N
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily