Demi Kollias says she feels like she’s never slept in her life. In the last 20 years, she has owned three 7-Elevens that posted double-digit sales increases every year, three Claymont Steak Shops and a meat-processing company. And, the 7-Elevens were deep into Pennsylvania.
“I pretty much got zero sleep because it’s not only the physical work that you do, it’s the mental work. When you’re the person who is in charge, you’re always trying to predict the next step, especially when you have to deal with a 24-hour operation, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” she said. “The first day that I didn’t have to be on the Blue Route at 5 o’clock in the morning, it felt like I was going through space or something. I thought, ‘What was I doing all these years?’”
Nowadays, Kollias has cut back to operating three steak shops, including a new one on Concord Pike, and the meat-processing company. She and her attorney-husband also are raising two daughters, a Tufts freshman and a Tower Hill senior.
Kollias relied on help from her mother, who helped rear her daughters, and her in-laws, who lent her the money to get started — at slightly more than the bank interest rate at the time.
“For me, it was 100 times easier with my mother, who is my angel, living with us all these years, helping me. I felt so comfortable that it was my mother. I knew she would love them and take care of them — and teach them Greek,” Kollias said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my Mom. I’m not a super-woman.”
“My father-in-law was my bank,” she said. “Some people said, ‘Oh, she has a rich family. They gave her everything.’ No, that’s not true. My family was my own personal bank — but we definitely paid them back.”
Being a young woman with an M.B.A. meant some differences in management style from the uncle who sold her the first Claymont Steak Shop in 2005. He was old school; she had learned computer inventory at 7-Eleven and planned to use sophisticated programs to track everything. “He almost didn’t sell me the restaurant,” she said.
Kollias and her husband are co-owners, but she runs the operation. She said her entrepreneurial style is to take less risk than she is able to take. “I like more stable and small, secure steps rather than jumping the staircase three steps at a time,” she said. “Where I am right now, we have over 100 employees, so I have to think about them and their families too.”
With a to-do list at the ready on her nightstand, Kollias says she always has a project for the future. Will she be part of the 5.2 percent growth the National Restaurant Association predicts for Delaware in 2016? Not likely. It’s her daughter’s senior year, she said.
By Suzanne Loudermilk
Did you know the fans of Claymont Steak Shop are known as Claymonsters? They’re that fanatical about the place. And now they have a third location to visit. The popular eatery—known for its signature rib-eye sandwich with melted American and provolone cheeses—opened a new spot last week at 2720 Concord Pike in Wilmington.
It offers all the delicious menu items available at the original location in Claymont and its second store in Newark, from subs to pizzas. Owner Demi Kollias, who took over the business in 2005, told the magazine last year, “I was able not only to improve it, but take it to another level in terms of product quality, service and name recognition.” Check out her profile in our 2014 “Women in Business” story. http://www.delawaretoday.com/Delaware-Today/December-2014/Women-in-Business/.
TSD was a lucky invitee at a friends and family sneak preview of the legendary Claymont Steak Shop’s beautiful new Concord Pike location. Sunday’s opening celebration showcased the restaurant’s contemporary interior and nifty green signage as well as several of their signature dishes, such as cheese steaks, pizza, baklava and other delicacies. “We like to create restaurants that are very much a part of their community,” said owner Demi Kollias. “So while there is a sports theme at our Newark location, the Concord Pike area is different. People are busy and pressed for time any time they travel the Pike. So we will offer exceptionally fast service in an urban-style restaurant environment that our guests will enjoy.”
Philadelphia Citypaper Cover Story
Let our expert expand your grease-stained horizons.
In the days following Joe Biden’s selection as Obama’s running mate, much was made of the widowed senator’s grueling daily train trips from Washington to Delaware, ostensibly to be with his kids. Having been to Biden’s favorite steak shop, I suspect a less noble motivation.
By Scott Pruden | Delaware Today
Delaware Today recently highlighted 36 women, including Claymont Steak Shop’s Demi Kollias, who share their tips for success—and how they’ve managed to find that tricky balance between their personal and professional lives.
Demi Kollias arrived in the United States 25 years ago with little more than a dream, having never traveled outside her hometown in northern Greece. Since then, she’s made herself at home, first managing a chain of 7-Eleven stores, then, in 2005, buying the original Claymont Steak Shop. Since then, she’s taken what was a stagnant brand and turned it into a two-store (soon to be three) chain, all the while keeping intact the quality of the shop’s legendary cheesesteaks and garnering the foodie awards to prove it. “I was able not only to improve it, but take it to another level in terms of product quality, service and name recognition,” she says. Through it all, her ability to prioritize—and always keep her family in the forefront—has helped her balance her life.