Cyprus Mail

The pizza man

Mike Avraamides inside the family-run Andy's Pizza

By Alexia Evripidou

WITH SHOPS closing down since the economic crisis at a depressing unseemly rate, the 44-year-old family-run Andy’s Pizza keeps calm and carries on feeding the bellies of old and new customers regardless.

The popular pizzeria opened its doors on the busy Griva Digeni Avenue Nicosia, in 1970, and hasn’t moved.

Andy's Pizza has been on the same spotsince 1970
Andy’s Pizza has been on the same spot since 1970

Though an uncommon choice of business at a time when souvlakia and grandmother’s home cooking prevailed, this did not deter founder Marios Avraamides from taking the risk. It has since proudly offered: pizzas, submarines and burgers to over four generations of families from 1970 until today.

Christakis Petsas has been a staple regular and one of the pizzeria’s first ever clients in the early 1970s.

“I have been eating Andy’s Pizzas since I was a young. My mum used to buy them half baked and send them to me in London whilst I was at university; I never went without!” he says.

Old photos of family members who helped in the restaurant feature prominently
Old photos of family members who helped in the restaurant feature prominently

It began with family and it remains a family run business. At the beginning, all hands were on deck, with Marios, his wife, parents and other relatives, as well as his two young children, mucking in. Initially, they struggled to introduce this foreign food to the local palettes and were lucky to sell one pizza a day. The menu was very simple with only one type of pizza, one type of submarine and one type of burger.

Marios Avraamides with Mike's sister as a toddler near the shop
Marios Avraamides with Mike’s sister as a toddler near the shop

Eventually it caught on and evolved as locals began to explore the tastes. The 1974 invasion saw an influx of foreigners into Nicosia and along with it, a more adventurous menu. Also, the then recently expanded UN mission brought homesick soldiers in droves and with them, their county’s pizza preferences.

From Canadian soldiers, for instance, came the spicy Canadian pizza with its hot pepper and salami.

However, in 2002 after 32 years in the business, it was time for Marios to put away his pizza sauce and hand over the spatula to Mike Avraamides; his son. Again, contrary to the shop’s name, Mike is now the business’ owner, manager and ‘anything else that needs to be done at the pizzeria’ man. He’s also the accountant, the lawyer, the electrician and you might even be lucky enough to have him as your takeaway delivery driver.

So then, who was Andy?

“It was a relative of my dad’s from America called Andy, who opened Andy’s Corner in Nicosia in the mid 60s, serving all things American; pizza, hotdogs, donuts etc,” explains Mike. Marios learnt the tricks of the trade from him and eventually opened Andy’s Pizza.

When Mike took over in 2002, he renovated, bringing the shop into the ‘noughties’ and offering home delivery, French Fries and an updated menu catering to a more experienced palette.

“My father only offered a couple of things then, but they were unique, special and homemade with love,” says Mike.

Though certain things have changed, one thing remains unquestionably the same, the firm adherence to the family ethics that Marios instilled in his son, of high quality fast food and excellent customer service. Plus the art of keeping it simple, simplicity being a primary driving factor that has helped Mike run the well loved pizzeria maintaining its success. Even today, his menu is still simple in comparison to other pizzerias.

One of Andy's famous pizzas
One of Andy’s famous pizzas

Staying true to tradition, Mike still uses some of his father’s old suppliers. The breads for the submarine and hot dogs are homemade by a small family-run bakery. The baker has been making the bread for Andy’s Pizza since 1970. The same for ham and dairy products which are from smaller businesses that have stayed true to the quality of their produce and do not cut corners at the expense of quality.

“Once I like something, I stay with it, even if it costs more,” confirms Mike.

But it’s not been plain sailing, for either Marios or Mike. Andy’s Pizza survived the 1974 invasion, the arrival of Pizza Hut, Domino’s and other pizza conglomerates and most recently the 2013 economic crisis. According to Mike, this survival is mainly due to good management of money and keeping it simple. Belts were severely tightened during the 2013 crisis when suppliers curbed their 90 day credit, (originally allowing him to pay by cheque). Suddenly he had to pay up in 60 and then 30 days; cash only. Business had also dropped substantially as people were not eating out as often as they used to, but “letting go and allowing the business to disappear was never an option for me” says Mike.

Mike and family made the necessary changes; rolling with the punches to keep the shop open. They suffered losses and therefore cut down all expenses, forwent personal payments, employed fewer staff, got more family involvement and pumped all money back into the business.

“You have to be careful with money. The money in my till is never mine, it’s the business’. Just because you’re the owner of a company, it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. All that money, down to the last cent, needs to be deposited in the bank”.

He believes all these things helped. It saddens him to see how many businesses have closed that shouldn’t have gone under. “You have to fight to keep it open. Having to close the business would have been like chopping my head off.”

Even during the heydays when Andy’s Pizza was making better money, Mike still had his feet firmly on the ground. Expansion had crossed his mind and he had considered opening four more pizzerias but ultimately decided not to.

“Thank God we didn’t do it. I’d opened a few small businesses, one distributing frozen pizzas but they didn’t work. I learnt very quickly that life goes up and down and so chose to do one thing and to do it well,” says Mike.

Today, Mike spends his hours standing front of house and overseeing everything. With business back on track, he enjoys taking orders by phone, ensuring the day to day smooth running of the business and bantering with customers as he hands over their takeaway. Mike’s wife is also involved, both as his much appreciated advisor, and maker of the frozen pizzas they sell as a side branch of the business. Even Marios, who has been officially retired for 12 years, with the help of his wife, make the famous dough in their workshop daily, sending enough of the white stuff for nearly 200 pizzas daily; fresh, fluffy and ready for lashings of cheese and other desirable toppings. Still keeping it in the family!

Throughout all the changes, one factor remained steady detail to good quality fast food and genuine excellent customer service. Mike not being work shy has also helped. You can find him at the pizzeria seven days a week, 355 days a year.

Ideally, like most proud family business owners, Mike hopes the business will be passed down to his son, but as he is only six and has only just tasted pizza for the first time, he doesn’t hold his breath. There is still plenty of time.

 Andy’s Pizza 22 674444, Griva Digeni Avenue Nicosia

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