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Kosta's Subs N' Salads Owner 'Doesn't Want To Give Up' Despite COVID-19's Hit To Business

Joe Kostas, who owns Kostas Subs N' Salads on South Adams Street, is photographed in his store on December 8, 2020
Ryan Dailey
Joe Kostas, who owns Kostas Subs N' Salads on South Adams Street, is photographed in his store on December 8, 2020

Restaurant closures, in Tallahassee and elsewhere, have been a sad result of COVID-19’s stranglehold on the economy. Many are tightening their belts and braving tough times to try and keep their businesses open.

WFSU recently spoke with the owner of one such restaurant that’s been serving up Greek food favorites for more than 30 years.

Joe Kosta took over as owner and operator of Kosta’s Subs N’ Salads in 2002. The Greek restaurant has been in the same location on South Adams Street for more than three decades.

“Kosta’s start in 1989 by Kostas Tampelos, a Greek man, he decided to sell it, so I took over in 2002. So, from 2002 until now, I am running the restaurant,” Kosta explained.

Kosta wasn’t always a restaurateur, he has a background in engineering – but found his calling turning people who pop in for lunch, into loyal customers.

“In fact, I am engineer, I worked for the state for over 10 years – and I’ve been around, I used to work for oil fields, I’ve done a lot of jobs. But I like having this restaurant; I like to make food, I like to be creative,” Kosta said.

The way Kosta tells it, business began to slip when some population density left the area years ago. But, now that COVID-19 has rocked the state economy, it’s the hardest set of circumstances he’s seen since entering the business.

“It was really good in the beginning. Really, after so many people started to move to Southwood, business started to decline a little bit,” Kosta told WFSU. “But, I have my own customers, regular customers … but really during the pandemic of COVID-19, we see a lot of differences right now.

“Especially the state employees work from home, and really my customers are state employees because I’m very close to the Capitol. And also, FAMU students and professors and employees, most likely all of them work from home.”

Since then, Kosta has had to stop buying advertisements and rely more on organic social media marketing – people enjoying his food and posting about it.

“People tell each other about the restaurant. I can’t afford any advertising, but I rely on reputation. I love my business, I like to do my best every day. I’m here every day, but really it is a very hard time to go through right now, due to the pandemic,” the restaurant owner said.

That’s resulted in having to cut down on staff:

“For example, I have about 10 to 12 employees because I was really, really busy before. Now I’m starting to have four or five employees, two employees, one employee. That really gives you an impression of how bad the business goes down.”

While the passion for preparing food hasn’t left him, Kosta says, the business side of things gets stressful when money dries up.

“I like what I’m doing, but generally talking, I have to make a living also. So, I’m really having hard time to make a living from the restaurant, paying utility, paying rent, paying insurance license, all the overhead stays the same,” Kosta said. “It’s never been changed, really. But, the only thing changed is the revenue, the income coming in.”

Despite the setbacks he hopes are temporary, Kosta doesn’t plan on giving up:

“Kostas’s is Kosta’s, people know Kosta’s for long time. We’ll try to keep it the same. I don’t want to give up, really.”

Kosta says the prospect of a vaccine has him hopeful of more people being out and about, and looking for a bite to eat, soon.

“So, I’m going slowly, and I do my best, and hoping for better days really. I don’t like to give up – as I said before, but we’re looking for better days,” Kosta said. “This vaccine may be coming by next year hopefully, everything coming to normal, that’s the way we’re looking at it, really.”

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.