By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Elvira’s Deli and Pizza in the Old Mill Beach area went dark for two months after a patron’s car came through an exterior wall and damaged the building. During that time, not only repairs were made, but extensive renovations conducted. Late Saturday afternoon, Elvira’s celebrated its reopening, inviting neighbors and friends to a party in the store.
Niki Yiovanakos, daughter of owners Stacey and Nick, said the family came from northern Greece in 1974 and that her grandfather Harry started a diner in Danbury. Niki’s parents then opened Tower of Pizza in Ridgefield. In 1994, Stacey’s sister Elvira was diagnosed with breast cancer – she passed in June 1997. The family moved down to Norwalk, saw the vacancy in Westport and started the deli, honoring Elvira.
Niki was just graduating from college and jumped into the business. Her brother John also joined in, working there for the first seven years, before going to work in Manhattan for Citibank. “During the renovation, I decided to come back to work here and keep the family business going for years to come.”
Close to $100,000 was dedicated to the renovation work, to install new floors, cabinets, kitchen equipment and coolers, according to Nick.
The business actually reopened last Monday, according to Stella Yiovanakos, John’s wife. “We wanted to have an official grand reopening and invite the community to participate,” she said. To mark the occasion, colorful balloons were strung up around the place and pastries, gyros, souvlaki, wings and more were prepared and offered to visitors.
Since its founding 15 years ago, Elvira’s has become a beloved landmark. All in attendance had only positive things to say.
“I love coming here and all the people are so nice,” said Samantha Pacilio, 10, stopping in with teammates after a basketball practice. “We love seeing our friends.”
Stacie Curran, who has lived across the street since the business opened, said, “We’ve been to all their kids’ weddings, showers and other family celebrations. At Christmastime, everyone sends cards, which they hang up in the store. All the local moms pick up lunch here as they put their kids on the bus. We were shocked about the accident but glad they made the best of it.”
Teri Alein lives on nearby Danbury Avenue and comes down to Elvira’s most mornings for coffee. “I remember when they bought the place,” she said. “A lot of people chipped in to help and they paid everyone back. When my kids and grandkids visit, the first thing they want to do is come to Elvira’s.”
The secret to the family’s success, besides their tasty menu and convenience, is the relationship they have formed with the area. “Everyone knows each other and is very friendly,” said Stella.
Added Nick, “We have moms coming in here with kids, who were little girls when they first started visiting.”