Restaurant’s co-founder returns, finds it fun again
The “Jake” is back in Jake & Telly's restaurant in Old Colorado City.
After taking a one-year break from the Greek-food-specializing restaurant that he and his brother, Telly, started in 1997, Jake Topakas returned this spring. He's happy to report that sales have been climbing ever since and that he plans to “stay a long time.”
But initially it was bad news that brought him back. “I was in Portland, Oregon, ready to open a place there with a friend when I got wind that things were not going well here,” Jake recalled. Meanwhile, his brother, who had also left Colorado Springs in March '05 and is starting a restaurant with his wife in Berkeley, California, was in no position to take on the responsibility of putting things right at their old eatery.
So, Jake said, “I made a choice. I had more of an obligation to what's already mine than to what isn't mine yet.”
Not all of his thoughts were positive, he conceded. “At first, I felt like, 'Man, I've got to go back?' But now, he said, “I've dedicated myself to getting this place back on its feet. This is a great town. I'm feeling good, and it's awesome.”
He believes his time away from Jake & Telly's helped him understand how to run it more effectively. While in Portland, he said he worked in various culinary capacities, getting to “see restaurants from the employee standpoint.” In addition, he studied wines and “did a lot of cool traveling. I got a good outside education on the restaurant business.”
One of the major lessons he learned, which he's following through on here, “is how to work at a business without being chained to it.” A big key is finding good staff and treating them well. “We're like a family where everyone helps each other out,” he said. “It's one of the best communications I've ever seen between the front and the back of the house.”
Jake grew up in the restaurant business, working for his parents' restaurant. The Greek culture came naturally, too - his grandparents having moved to America from Greece (the name “Jake” is actually a shortening of his given first name, Iakovos). When Jake & Telly's started, only part of the menu was Greek food. But when they realized those offerings were what customers liked best, “we decided to go all Greek,” he said.
Jake and Telly's parents, John and Jacqueline, originally helped them get their restaurant started, and her murals still adorn the walls.
Westside Pioneer article