Almost a decade ago, siblings Kathy, George and John Xanthoudakis stood in the restaurant once known as Sylvester’s, along with their parents Debbie and Jimmy. It had been closed for a few years at that point, but as the five stood there, they saw potential to bring a dream to fruition.
That dream became the Otherside Restaurant and Lounge, and now, a decade later, the business is changing hands and the Xanthoudakis family is moving on to other dreams and adventures — though according to both Kathy and George, it’s not an easy decision to leave behind the restaurant, its staff and the many patrons they have gotten to know over the years.
“Nothing has sunk in yet,” Kathy Xanthoudakis said. “I don’t think it will until I have nothing to do.”
Though she said she won’t miss the long hours that are involved in running the restaurant, there is plenty about the restaurant she will remember.
“I’m going to miss the staff and the customers,” she said. “Our staff’s been there for years. You get close to them, like family. And I’m going to miss the customers I’d see on a regular basis.”
While Kathy Xanthoudakis stayed out of the kitchen and worked other aspects of the restaurant business, brother George had his hands in all the dishes coming from the kitchen, including the unique specials that celebrated the family’s Greek heritage.
Like his sister, the long hours had also begun to wear on him, though.
“I’m ready for a different challenge,” he said. He’s started a business with friend Petros Zourpakis, one that stays far away from the kitchen and restaurant business — though he didn’t rule out someday going back to it.
“What makes food good is love and passion,” he said. “You need to be careful you don’t lose that spark.”
Those long hours were dimming that spark for him, though it’s still there, he said. It just needs some time to recover. Plus, there’s other aspects of the business that will chafe in their absence.
“What am I going to miss the most? Everything,” George Xanthoudakis said with a rueful chuckle. “The restaurant industry is a lifestyle.”
Kimberly Ko, owner of the Stettler Hotel and its lounge, The Edge, praised the Xanthoudakis family for its commitment to the community. A farewell bash for the family was held Saturday, Aug. 27 at her lounge. The lounge was crowded with well-wishers — customers, current and former staff and their families, and other members of the community that had gotten to know the family over the years.
For their part, the Xanthoudakis siblings lived up to their friendly reputation, generously sharing their smiles, laughs and generally cheerful attitudes with the gathered crowd.
Ko spoke briefly about the family before playing some songs on the piano for them, including the theme from The Godfather. She said that the family, especially George Xanthoudakis, mentored her after she bought the Stettler Hotel. Ko had no experience in the hospitality industry when she – admittedly naively — purchased the hotel a few years ago. She’d never worked in a restaurant, let alone run one. She didn’t even know how to use the kitchen’s industrial stove.
According to Ko, it was George Xanthoudakis who came to her rescue, showing her how to operate the kitchen’s equipment, including the stove, as well as helping her design a menu that would offer up something not currently available in Stettler.
Despite the hotel’s lounge technically being “competition” to the Otherside, George Xanthoudakis never hesitated in supporting her business, Ko said.
When asked why he would promote another eatery in his own, George Xanthoudakis simply shrugged his shoulders.
“I didn’t see her as competition,” he explained. “Stettler may be a small community, but it has room for more, for different ideas. All I did was guide her toward something unique, something that has her own signature on it.”
Ko agreed with him.
“I was just a nerdy piano player when I took over,” she said of the hotel. “Instead of being competitive, he was there to help me.”
The restaurant officially changes hands Sept. 1, but it is currently closed as the incoming owners put their personal mark on the Otherside through renovations.
The Xanthoudakis family will be travelling to Greece for a vacation and to spend time with family and friends before returning to Stettler.
“That’s when it’s really going to sink in,” Kathy Xanthoudakis said. “When we get back from Greece.”
The new owners of the business are keeping the name the same, and they’re also keeping on existing staff — something very satisfying for the Xanthoudakis family.
“They seem experienced,” Kathy Xanthoudakis said. “And they’re keeping our staff, which means a lot.”
While the new owners take over Sept. 1, George Xanthoudakis said he’ll likely be involved with the Otherside for a while beyond that, possibly into spring 2017, as the restaurant transitions from the Xanthoudakis’ Otherside to its new version.
Correction: The original version of this story misspelled the name of Petros Zourpakis.