How Yeeroh Tests New Concept of Preserving Tradition
Yiannys Degermentzidis shares his family's Greek-food folklore with Philadelphia.
Learn about how this 25 year old gyro shop owner honors his family and Greek heritage in the South Street neighborhood of Philly.
What inspired you to open up your business?
We started this process over two years ago. I knew I wanted open a restaurant in the city. My family owned pizzerias, and I basically grew up in them. At first, that’s what I thought I would do, but quickly realized that Philadelphia was flooded with them. I understood that this may be a good opportunity for me to try something new. I actually started looking for a commercial space before I even came up with the idea. I stumbled across our current location, decided it was where I wanted to be, and worked backwards from there. What type of restaurant would fit into this rather small, intimate space? Quickly, I realized it would be the perfect set up for a traditional greek gyro shop.
And what ties do you have to Greek culture or food?
Both of my parents are from Greece, so I grew up eating Greek food everyday of my life thanks to my family. I go to Greece almost every summer, and you can, and often do, each gyros for every meal. It works for everything.
What are the challenges you’ve faced being a young, first-time business owner?
This is a rather new concept for myself and for Philadelphia. I worked along side my father before I opened my own place and observed the way he ran his business for many years. I wanted to make sure everything was and continues to be done right, just the way he had always done it. Opening up a completely new venture has been a bit like trial and error, and you can’t control everything. Another challenge has been getting the word out and helping people understand the value our restaurant can bring to their day to day lives.
What about Philadelphia felt right for this concept?
I’ve lived in Philly for 6 years now, and during that time I have really come to understand the culinary scene. New York and DC both have very flooded international food options, whereas Philly is still opening itself up to a lot of different worldly cuisines. I realized that Philly was really missing an incredible traditional Greek gyro restaurant, and I wanted to be the one that did it right. For instance, at first we thought we may want to be considered a typical fast-casual place, but knew that in order to stick to tradition, we had to cook each meal to order to ensure freshness, and never store our cooked food, exactly like it’s done in Greece.
Why do you think tradition is so important to you?
These traditions are who I am, and being Greek is who I am. The younger generations, myself included, are the people who are responsible for keeping these traditions going so those that come after us can continue to learn and be shaped by them. I always want it to be apart of my life. I’m excited to keep this business and tradition going, and watch it grow as much as possible.
In what ways do you try to run a sustainable business?
Besides Inspire, we work with a company called Eden Green Energy, which collects our fry oil and reuses it. We also work with the city and our waste management company to do full stream recycling.
And finally, why Inspire?
I was taught that if there is something you can do on a personal level to help out a problematic situation, you should do that thing, regardless of whether it’s easy or hard.
Luckily, switching to clean power was incredibly easy. We also realized that in Philadelphia, people are looking for businesses that seek to be responsible. It really is a win-win.
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