When we featured Gregory Zamfotis, founder of Gregorys Coffee, he said his Dad, George, has inspired his success. In honor of Father’s Day, we asked Gregory to share the lessons and advice his father has given him, that have helped him launch and expand his business to over 30 locations—including a new one on the Ave.
Can you tell us about your father’s own background in business?
My father is a Greek immigrant who has had the entrepreneurial itch from the very beginning. He has owned and operated numerous fast casual concepts in the tri state area over the last 50 years, always innovating and thinking outside the box. In the early 1990s, he started a chain of panini pressed sandwich shops called “Zams”. Believe it or not, paninis were not a thing in the US at the time. Grilled cheese? Yes. Grilled Turkey, Swiss Cheese, Tomato and Mayo? Not so much. He has continued to evolve and now helps run the bakery side of Gregorys Coffee.
What are the main lessons your father has shared, that have helped you get to where you are?
1. Treat people with respect. My father always treated people the right way, be it his team members or his guests. It served him well in business and in life, we have team members who work for my father who have been with him for over 30 years; that doesn’t happen by accident.
2. Never be outworked. My father always worked extremely hard, I always took note of that, and it shaped the type of person I am. If something doesn’t work, I don’t ever want the reason to be due to lack of effort.
3. Do the right thing. When running a business there will always be times you can choose the easy way, or the safe way, even if it is to the detriment of someone else. We always try to do the right thing, and it comes back to you in spades. This was never more evident than during COVID, when we had to work with vendors and landlords during the difficult times, and because of years of being a good partner we received a lot of help when we needed it most.
4. Think outside the box. Don’t try to be like everyone else, be yourself, stand out. Our original slogan at Gregorys was to see coffee differently, and that has rung true for 16 years now.
Love these! What has been your Dad’s response to your own success?
While he has been incredibly proud of what I have achieved, he is still an immigrant at heart; tomorrow is never guaranteed. When I would get a 97 on a math test, he would say “good, now let’s look at what you got wrong”. I used to hate when he would do that to me, but now I understand he was teaching me to not be satisfied with doing well, always striving for more, to be better and we know we have a lot more we can do at Gregorys.
How are you celebrating Father’s Day with your Dad?
Drinking coffee together of course.