Veteran Stock Trader Swapped Career to Own Its Greek to Me Restaurant

Nick Karos showed up at 6.30am every morning for 30 years at the stock trading desk of Piper Jaffray and his own company after leaving Piper.

Uninterrupted days of phone and computer negotiating thousands to millions of dollars were only interrupted by chicken sandwich breakfasts in the office.

Karos was calm and decisive in a sometimes hectic trade in which transactions were sealed daily by the word of competing traders. He became a millionaire, head of Piper’s Nasdaq stock trading desk. And he burned himself out as automated decision-making and regulations eroded the company’s profitability and the human interactions he loved.

“Before the business went fully electronic, I didn’t sleep well at night because I couldn’t wait to get out of bed to go to work,” recalls Karos. “In the end, I couldn’t sleep well because I hated going to work.

“There are [software] programs there that monitor every trade lead, and a company name pops up and the algorithm program triggers a transaction. The margins are extremely fine. The risk / reward ratio is not what it used to be. “

Karos, 58, will show up at 5 a.m. at the poorly paid two-year-old job he adores on Sunday. He’ll start by placing a 55-pound lamb on the spit a few hours before his It’s Greek to Me restaurant opens for Easter brunch.

“It’s all a labor of love,” Karos said during a hiatus a few weeks ago. “And we also have to put the lamb thighs in the oven for Sunday brunch, and a lot of other things. It’s all about the food, the hospitality and treating employees and customers well.”

Nick and Athena Karos, his wife, bought the 37-year-old restaurant in Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue S. in 2016. The couple, both of whom have restaurant roots, have always enjoyed hanging out with It’s Greek to Me. invested “a few hundred thousand dollars”, including the acquisition, to beautify the place and focus on the Greco-Mediterranean specialties that have started to attract a younger crowd to the booming Lyn-Lake mall .

“The business has grown every month,” said Nick Karos. “We’re here every day. We bought the restaurant from Aris Arambadjis. He worked six or seven days a week for 35 years. He still owns the building. He comes all the time.”

Karos said virtually all food is made from scratch except for pita bread and feta cheese imported from a processing factory owned by cousins ​​of Karos near the village of Niata in the south. from Sparta and where the Karos family is from. Olive oil is made from olive groves owned by cousins ​​of Athena.

“I like authentic food,” Karos said. “There aren’t a lot of ingredients in Greek cuisine.”

Alex Karos, Nick’s grandfather, immigrated at the turn of the 20th century and ran a family-run restaurant on Washington Avenue downtown. (Karos was abbreviated from “Karakatsanis” in America.) He died of a heart attack while pushing his car out of a snowbank in 1942. Nick’s father, Peter “Zeus” Karos, took over the restaurant while still a student at Washburn High School and sold it while studying at the University of Minnesota. The late Zeus Karos was a community banker who turned to securities trading, where he became a commercial executive at Piper.

Nick Karos, 58, learned cooking from his mother. She grew up in a Greek family who owned a restaurant in Hibbing, Minn.

For years Nick Karos was a chef and bottle washer at Taste of Greece, the annual festival at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in south Minneapolis. He raises thousands of dollars for church and community charities.

“Nick has always been comfortable cooking for his family or for hundreds of people at church,” said his brother, Paul Karos, a retired securities analyst and securities trader. “He’s still at the restaurant. He loves it.

Nick and Athena Karos, a former Minneapolis public school teacher, have three children, all of whom work part-time at the restaurant. Athena Karos is the daughter of the late Winnipeg restaurateur Jimmy Ginakes. She grew up in commerce.

Nick Karos loves mingling with customers and overseeing the making of spanakopita (spinach pie), melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant spread), Mediterranean pilaf, seasonal vegetables, lamb and chicken prepared in many Greek ways. traditional and other dishes. The menu matches the health-focused trends around heart-healthy oils, vegetables, and fresh foods.

The Lyn-Lake neighborhood, east of Uptown, is booming with apartment buildings, independent businesses and “Greek” clients. “Customers love to know the owner,” said Nick Karos. “And the restaurant business is very similar to commerce. Relationships. Confidence. It’s all day.

“And in this business you can tell right away if they like the food. Instant satisfaction.”

Neal St. Anthony has been a business columnist and reporter for the Star Tribune since 1984. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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