MOUNT HEALTHY, Ohio — The latest interest rate hike hits a sore spot for Ohio restaurants. Two-thirds of restaurant owners said they took on new debt since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to Ohio Restaurant Association data published this month. Still, a 96-year-old in business for decades is serving up optimism.
Despite his need for waitress help and rising food costs, Angelo Rallis is calm. A & A Restaurant charges no more than $10 for any item. Most are belly-filling platters too. Rallis preps, cooks and cleans everything by hand. He gladly works 12-hour days, seven days a week.
“What am I going to do?” he said. “Stay in a chair at home? No, I’m not that guy. I like work.”
He believes relentless work solves problems, economic or not.
“He will sit on his stool on his break and say after two whole minutes, three minutes tops: oops (it’s) time to get back to work,” Tracie Phalz, one of two waitresses at the restaurant, said.
Rallis pushed off retirement decades ago to keep his business and himself going.
“I’m going to retire at 100,” Rallis said. “Maybe. Maybe I’ll keep going.”
He left Greece at 13. Then, Rallis worked in his uncle’s Cincinnati restaurant and learned values that still pay off.
“His work ethic is amazing,” Phalz said. “I think that’s what people can learn is it doesn’t matter how old you are.”
Through recession, overwhelming bills and even the death of his wife and business partner, Rallis perseveres. Behind the 54-year-old cash register on his counter, customers and staff see impressive dedication.
“I asked him why he gives such big helpings, why his prices are so reasonable,” Phalz said. “He said to me that he doesn’t want anyone to ever have to go away hungry in his restaurant and not to pay high cost for the food that they get.”
Rallis picks up any and all slack in business operations. His doctors told him the work is good for his health, Rallis said. So whatever happens next, he sounds ready to serve.
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