By Myron Love
A Manitoba family business finds success
By Myron Love
Thompson in northern Manitoba is a mining community, the
kind of place where people go to make a lot of money quickly then move
Thompson in northern Manitoba is a mining community, the kind of place where people go to make a lot of money quickly then move on. George Simeonidis was one of those who answered the call to Thompson. But it wasn’t in minerals that the young Greek immigrant found his fortune. He built his prosperity on pizza.
In 1971, Simeonidis bought a small pizzeria in a Thompson strip mall from an Italian friend who wanted to move back to Italy. Within a year, the renamed Santa Lucia Pizza was one of the most popular restaurants in Thompson.
From that grub stake, Simeonidis and his family have grown their pizza business into one of the largest privately owned pizza chains in this area. Today, the family operates six Santa Lucia Pizza Restaurants in Winnipeg, one in Morris, Man., and one in Fargo, N.D.
|Helen Simeonidis and her son Michael at one of their Winnipeg Santa Lucia Pizza Restaurants.|
As with many who come to Thompson, Simeonidis didn’t stay long in the community. In 1974, he relocated to south Winnipeg. Shortly after, he was joined in business by three of his brothers (Archie, Gus and Lazarus) and they quickly opened more Santa Lucia Pizza Restaurants in other parts of Winnipeg. The locations in Morris and Fargo were opened within the past few years; the latter operated by George’s son, Alex, and daughter, Marcia.
One of Santa Lucia’s claims to fame was the introduction of thick crust pizza to Winnipeg. Another is the introduction of Greek pizzas. George’s wife, Helen, used to make pizzas with feta cheese, cheese sauce instead of pizza sauce, Greek dressing, olives and tomatoes for her husband. Soon, customers started asking about it.
The Greek pizza (also with onions and mozzarella cheese) is Santa Lucia’s third most popular pizza request after the Santa Lucia special (pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers and onions) and the pepperoni and mushroom.
Other Santa Lucia specialties include the Vegetarian Pizza, the Meat Lover’s, the Aloha, the Mexican, the Chicken Supreme, the Santa Fe (also chicken breast), the Mediterranean and the Healthy Heart Pizza (on whole wheat crust with chicken breast, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach) and the 30-inch Giant Pizza for $69.95 that feeds eight to 12.
“We emphasize quality and locally produced products,” says Michael Simeonidis, George’s son. (George passed away last summer.)
The Santa Lucia menu also includes a wide range of Greek and Italian starters and entrees, salads and steak and chicken and seafood selections. Michael notes that all the restaurants offer the same menu choices except for one pick-up and delivery open outlet, which has a more limited menu.
“Half our business is pick-up and delivery,” he says. He adds that his sister and brother in Fargo also cater a lot of festivals throughout the American Midwest, travelling as far south as Texas.
The Family has expansion in mind for the near future. One possibility is a pick-up and delivery outlet in Transcona, an east Winnipeg suburb.
“We are considering opening Santa Lucias in towns around Manitoba and maybe looking farther afield to Saskatchewan and Alberta,” Michael says. “That may mean having to look outside the family for managers, perhaps to long-time employees who know our food.”
“One of the things that impresses people is that we eat in our own restaurants,” says Helen. “People figure if the owners eat here regularly, then the food must be good.”•