Nearly 20 years ago, Jim Papadopoulos, a native of Greece, opened Jim’s Gyros in Main Street Station on North Webb Road.
As reported in the Grand Island Independent at that time, the centerpiece of Papadopoulos’ menu was the gyro — a sandwich made with thin slices of gyro beef lightly cooked on pita bread. A typical gyro includes thin slices of gyro beef or chicken; a sauce of sour cream, yogurt and spices; cheese; and vegetables such as lettuce, onion and tomato.
The restaurant also served a Greek salad, which includes gyro meat, bread, Greek olives, feta cheese, vegetables and Greek dressing. Baklava was also on the menu.
Papadopulos eventually sold the business to Don and Rebecca Young, who operated the restaurant for many years. After a successful run, the Youngs also decided to sell. The new owners are Doni and Alissa Harris. As with the Youngs, who decided to stick to the simplicity of Papadoupoulos’s menu — centered around the gyro sandwich — the new owners are going to keep to that winning formula. It’s a familiar menu that has made the restaurant well-loved among the town’s dining public over the last two decades.
“After looking into franchise opportunities, I came across Jim’s Gyros for sale while having lunch,” Doni Harris said. “The establishment has been a Grand Island staple for many years, especially for those looking for something different.”
Harris said, while he plans to stick with a winning formula when it comes to Jim’s Gyros menu, he does plan to grow the business by adding a website that will give customers a way to order and pay online for pickup. He also wants to expand the business presence on social media outlets.
Harris was born in Edmond, Okla., and raised in Tishomingo, Okla., which is home to Blake Shelton’s Ole Red Restaurant and Bar.
In the 1990s, he moved to Nashville, Tenn., to pursue a musical career. He was part of the Rushlow band, which had a top-10 hit called “I Can’t Be Your Friend” in early 2000. He also recorded for Toby Keith’s label, Show Dog Records, where he recorded another top 40s hit: “Bag Pipes Crying.”
While Harris had a good run as a recording artist and performer, he was in the oil business in Colorado before moving to Grand Island with Alissa.
Purchasing Jim’s Gyro is his first venture into the restaurant business.
“Greek food is definitely different than most quick-serve restaurants due to ingredients and preparation of food,” Harris said.
That was something Papadopoulos brought to Grand Island through his Greek heritage and more than 30 years in the restaurant business. Another part of Papadoupoulos’s philosophy was to keep it simple to control quality and keep things moving quickly. That is a philosophy Harris plans to keep.
“We are going to keep everything the same with some modern updates,” he said.
Harris also said he owes a debt of gratitude to former owners Don and Rebecca Young, who have helped and mentored him.
“Don works for me five days a week during the lunch-time hours,” he said. “They are great people and they built this business to what it is today.”
Over the years, the restaurant has built a large fanbase because of the delicious food and friendly atmosphere.
“We get many compliments from our customers and how often they eat here,” Harris said. “That tells me we have a loyal, solid base. We cater to what they want and usually that’s a lot of food for the money.”
Like nearly 20 years ago, Jim’s Gyros main sellers remain the Gyro combos and Greek salads. Like Papadopoulos and Young before him, Harris cooks the Gyro meat on a vertical broiler and finishes it on the griddle.
“The pita is griddled, piping hot and dressed with the meat and homemade sour cream, Greek yogurt sauce, and finished with your choice of toppings like lettuce, cheese and onion,” Harris said. “Our Greek dressing is also homemade for the salads. They are all a big hit.”
Store hours are 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 2261 N. Webb Rd. The phone number is (308) 675-0228.