Our story began at our family store in Greece. Our family recipes are still made fresh daily.
One of our oldest family businesses in Southport successfully combines Italian subs and pizza, Greek gyros and Southern fried chicken for a tasty menu that keeps locals and tourists coming back for more.
When Famous Subs and Pizza owners – brothers Bill and John Vogiatzis – came with their parents to the United States, they were just 16 and 19 years old. The family was originally from the Macedonia region of Greece, a northern area that was once the home of Alexander the Great, whom many agree was one of the most influential people in cultural and military history.
From this background of tradition, the brothers and their parents moved to Massachusetts initially, but within five years began looking for a restaurant business opportunity in our area. In the early 1980s, they started talking to partners of Wilbur Hardee about a restaurant here. The founder of Hardee’s restaurants was selling his other chain of “Little Mints” in North Carolina. The restaurants had been named this to convey his vision – they would be small and would make him a mint – but apparently that had not worked out.
So in the summer of 1983, the Vogiatzis bought their restaurant business in Southport and named it Famous Subs and Pizza. It opened just down the road and only two month after Hardee’s on Howe Street. Bill describes those early days. “We kept it as just pizza and subs in the beginning, then we started expanding it. We ran it at first as breakfast, lunch and dinner. But Hardee’s kind of took the breakfast crowd, so we changed it to just lunch and dinner.”
He goes on to describe how much has changed in Southport in those 34 years. “When we took over, there was just one pizzeria – it was back behind us. The Roses department store was located there too. There was really nothing here – not even the street beside us or neighborhoods behind us. Southport is a small town now, but it was really small then.”
Over time the brothers expanded the seating area and hired more people. Today the restaurant has seating for 94 and a staff of 17, with perhaps 8 full time employees. Still, the family’s involvement is key, though it’s limited to just the brothers. “We made a truce; no wives would be involved,” says Bill with a smile. “It keeps things simpler.” As the wives are busy with their own careers and children, Bill and John are fully involved on a daily basis in their business.
The brothers take pride in their homemade food selections. The New England-style fresh dough pizzas – especially the house special and meat lovers pizza – are among the favorites. Other popular selections include the Italian sub and steak ‘n cheese subs. And of course Greek specialties like pitas and gyros are definitely tasty choices.
Calzones, salads, sandwiches and Italian pastas round out the menu. The Famous Chicken offerings have a real following. And pecan pie and apple pie add the Southern touches we all love.
Like most businesses in Southport, the restaurant slows down a bit in the winter. But their off-season is rather short – really just December through early February. The in-season starts early – at the end of February when the nuclear plant does their reactor refueling. “Every year they refuel one of the two reactors. They’ll bring a thousand or so people in, and once that gets started we get very busy. That’s the icing on the cake. Then when they leave, it’s Easter; the warmer months start and we see lots of people.”
As busy as they are running the business, Bill and John want the community to know about their commitment to quality and a personal touch. “We are fully involved in our business, so everything we do is done with care” relates Bill. “We’re 100% involved and work hard to please our customers.”
Story by Kass Fincher - Southport Magazine
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