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Greek Grill leaving Crossroads

Food court's oldest eatery fears long mall renovation

The oldest surviving tenant at the Crossroads Plaza food court is saying "yia sou."

That's Greek for goodbye.

The Greek Town Grill, which for 23 years has dished out gyros and souvlaki to downtown suits and shoppers, is bailing out — another victim of the pending mall renovation.

The grill, found on the bottom level of the Crossroads Plaza, will close its doors Thursday. Owner Bob Daskalakis said he was not forced out but decided to leave because construction plans on the mall may hurt his business.

"I had a chance to leave, and I felt we could do better on the outside in another location," he said.

Daskalakis said he has heard rumors of a four- to five-year construction time frame at Crossroads, and he said such a build-out is too much to bear. During the construction of the light-rail system just east of the mall, he said his profits were down 20-25 percent.

But when he finds the right situation, he said he will reopen the Greek Town Grill.

"We've been in the downtown area for 23 years," Daskalakis said. "We'd like to stay in the downtown area."

One option may be a proposed downtown food court on Main Street near 250 South that certain property owners and real estate brokers are contemplating.

Daskalakis' parents, Mary and Gus, opened Dask's Greek to Me in December 1982 in the Richard's Street Food Court at Crossroads after both of them had been laid off from Kennecott Copper Co. Mary said it was a matter of survival.

"I came down here one day with a friend of mine, and we were looking at Mrs. Fields," Mary Daskalakis said. "There was a line standing, and she (my friend) nudged me and said, 'Why didn't we think of that?' "

Mary Daskalakis called the mall's manager and proposed the idea of housing a Greek-style grill.

Originally, she would come early in the morning to prepare pastries and food from scratch.

"I love to cook," Mary Daskalakis said. "I learned from my mom and then from trial and error."

Mary's mother is from Lemnos, Greece, and her father and husband are from Crete.

Bob Daskalakis took over the family-run business about 15 years ago and in 2000 changed the name to Greek Town Grill. The grill is the longest-running tenant of the food court.

"There is not an original thing on any of the other places," Daskalakis said. "We've outdone them all. . . . We joined this mall when it was just coming in. When it was the hottest place in town."

These days, the Crossroads Plaza and neighboring ZCMI Center malls are anything but hot.

Facing decreasing sales in its two downtown malls, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is planning a $500 million renovation. While that renovation is welcomed by most downtown advocates, it has caused many longtime mall tenants, like Greek Town Grill, to relocate.

Over the past year, several mall tenants have expressed frustration with how little information they can glean about the project, including what stores the mall mangers plan to keep and what stores they plan to dump. Mall developers also haven't said when they plan to begin the rebuilding process.

With frustration over the secrecy mounting, some merchants have decided to bail rather than play the waiting game.

Property Reserve Inc., the LDS Church's real estate development arm, said it has been difficult to keep tenants informed because redevelopment plans are still emerging. PRI president Mark Gibbons said in an interview last year that, while frustrating, some secrecy is needed to protect private negotiations regarding retail leases.

LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills said late last week the church has no new information to release about mall renovation.

Daskalakis said he and his six or seven employees will have a hard time saying goodbye to Crossroads.

"We've really enjoyed working together," he said. "It's going to be tough to see it go."

Daskalakis said he has met a lot of famous people while working at the grill. Jay Leno, Brooke Shields and several basketball players have visited. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, he said he met some of President Bush's Secret Service workers.

But it's the local people Daskalakis said he will miss the most.

"We appreciate all the good years," Daskalakis said. "We hope to see everybody soon, and we'll let them know when we're back up and running again."