Pull up to the drive-through window at Ari's Gyros and B.B.Q. Ribs, a new restaurant in Huntington, and there's a chance co-owner Ari Lambridis will be there to greet you, wearing a blue hat with the word "Opa!" stitched across it.
"When Greeks dance, they jump up and down and they say ‘Opa!,'" Lambridis explains. "It means we are happy."
At Ari's, he says, "Opa!" goes beyond a word on a hat.
"It is our philosophy," says Lambridis. "Be happy!"
That's the word both Lambridis and his business partner Maria Ftergiotis would use to describe their feelings on being in Huntington. Restaurateurs with four other restaurants in Mishawaka, South Bend, Elkhart and Goshen, each centered on gyros and barbecue ribs, as well as salads, wraps, burgers and chicken, an opportunity to expand into Huntington recently presented itself to Lambridis and Ftergiotis.
"We've been looking for some restaurants in areas," says Ftergiotis. "A little bit smaller towns. We like the college communities. We have that flavor here, too.
"We just, as a fluke, ran across (this building) on Craigslist. The same day we saw it, we came down."
In February, only a month after they visited the building, Lambridis and Ftergiotis closed the deal for it, Lambridis says.
The building, located at 201 S. Jefferson St., most recently housed Malta Burgers.
"Everything went very, very smoothly," says Lambridis of the process to renovate the building.
Chief among their tasks was putting up new signage. The signs at this restaurant, in contrast to Lambridis and Ftergiotis' other establishments, bear the name "Ari's" instead of "King Gyros." This is part of a rebranding effort, Lambridis says.
"There are quite a few guys that are using the name ‘King Gyros,'" he notes. "And we want to expand. This is our fifth store. And all the other four have the name ‘King Gyros.' We decided it's about time we had a name that we were going to use ourselves, only. Make a name for ourselves.
"So, Maria had the idea. She said, ‘You know what? ‘Ari's' is a good name. Why don't we start there?' That's how it started. So, now we'll go on and probably we're going to rename all our stores ‘Ari's.'"
The name isn't the only difference between Ari's and Lambridis and Ftergiotis' other restaurants. The drive-through layout of Ari's necessitated some tinkering with the menu.
"It is a little less complicated here," says Lambridis. "We have a few items that we took out because this is only a drive-through. We want to make the service fast and we don't want to make people wait for too long."
Lambridis' outlook for his and Ftergiotis' latest restaurant is a positive one, but that's not a surprise given his philosophy.
"We think it's going to work out very well for here and for us," he says.