The next time you order a tasty Greek gyro sandwich, Nick Nichols of Greenville and the crew of Big City Gyros in Williamston might have a hand in helping create this culinary delight.
Nichols, Big City Gyros Chief Operating Officer, oversees the daily operation of the Williamston plant since coming onboard in 2012. Big City processes domestic, USDA beef and lamb meat mixed with herbs and spices to create the delicious Greek gyro meat found in the popular sandwich. The processed meat is fresh frozen and shipped in either cones (cylinder) shape or sliced individually. The plant has also recently started to cook gyros loaves and sell fully cooked slices for its foodservice customers.
“We’ll ship about a million pounds a year,” says Nichols. The company sells through distributors whose customers include restaurants and foodservice operators throughout the United States.
Just for the record, Wikipedia says “A gyro is a Greek dish of meat roasted on a vertical spit. It is commonly served in a sandwich with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce, wrapped in pita or sandwich bread.” Some pronounce it “gy-ro” or “gear=ro” but most Greeks call it a “Year-ros” sandwich, slightly rolling the “r” sound. Other pronunciations exist, but it really doesn’t matter when you are enjoying one of them with an order of fries.
The Williamston facility is 60,000 sq.ft. and once housed a hot dog processing plant. There are 15 employees working there, with about 25,000 sq.ft. used, including many refrigerated storage and processing areas to keep the product fresh frozen. Nichols says this allows plenty of room for future expansion.
Creating new jobs for Williamston with an optimistic future keeps Nichols upbeat about the company and the area.
Big City Gyros is owned by the Fantis Group of Companies in New Jersey. The George Markis family has been in the food business for more than 100 years, Nichols says, importing Greek foods including olive oil and cheeses.
Nichols has been in the food business for more than 35 years after earning degrees in business and photography. He started his career as a part-time driver for a gyro plant in Chicago and worked his way up from there. “I think I got the job because I could speak English and willing to learn the business” he says with a chuckle.
“The company first purchased this site back in 2009 but decided to follow other interests at the time,” Nichols recalls. The idea to open the meat processing facility came to fruition in 2012, he adds.
“They (the Markis family) needed to find someone who had experience in the gyros business and could operate the business and they found me through a mutual business contact. I met with Jerry Markis and it all happened quickly,” he adds.
“We visited the plant and picked out a home in Greenville all in a matter of a weekend,” Nichols recalls.