When you walk into Herc’s, you experience all things Greek, from the music to the cozy dining room to the fine wines and beer imported from Greece.
After 24 years in business, three major renovations have ensured Herc’s friendly, comforting atmosphere remains.
It all began with George Tyrkos, a cousin of current owner Gus Bountouris. Since then, there have been a lot of family and friends working at Herc’s.
“When I came to Sudbury 25 years ago, I was one of the only new Greek immigrants,” Bountouris said. “Since then, we have helped about 40 Greek residents and relatives come to Sudbury and almost everyone got their start at the restaurant.”
Bountouris is a full-time structural engineer who takes on contracts across Ontario, so his wife, Anastasia, and both children work at the restaurant.
Over the years, the menu has honoured traditional Greek favourites, but there have been a few add-ons. For instance, Gus’ wife, who makes the pastry, developed a mouthwatering and nutty baklava cheesecake during the lockdown.
The staff has also created spreads and dips like Fire Feta and hummus, which are now marketed and sold exclusively at Smith’s stores. In addition to the spread, Herc’s Greek salad dressing is made on-site with 17 ingredients, then bottled and sold at Smith’s, too.
So what makes Herc’s continue to tick a quarter-century later? Bountouris believes it is about consistency, service and ingredients, and that it is a family business.
“Everything is made from scratch,” he said simply, just like in Greece, “and my staff is excellent.”
Bountouris’ favourite is a toss-up between the beef souvlaki and the lamb chops.
In terms of customer favourites, he listed off Herc’s top three: The first choice is the chicken souvlaki dinner; the second choice is the Greek salad and chicken skewer, and; the third most popular choice is the gyro with a salad, rice and potatoes.
“It amazes me that people never stray from their favourites on the menu though,” Bountouris said. “Some have come here every week since it opened and are still ordering the same item. I always ask them to try something different, but they have this golden standard.”
While his two children, George and Antonia, both work in the restaurant now, he doesn’t anticipate their takeover of the restaurant is in the cards.
For Bountouris, Herc’s is a labour of love.
“In Greece, that ethic is in the culture and the mentality,” he said. “I don’t run Herc’s because I need the money. I do it because I love it.”
As for why he never takes vacations or leaves, Bountouris said he trusts his employees immensely, but customers want to see the owner present for quality control.
“When an owner is not there time and time again, it is perceived as not caring,” he said.
With catering making a comeback as people return to work and office functions, Bountouris has high hopes for a holiday season to remember.
Anastasia Rioux is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat! is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.