ALBION – Maggie and Sean Hare dimmed the lights and turned on the sounds of the Mediterranean, providing a taste of the ambience their first customers would soon enjoy inside their new restaurant.
The Maryland natives and the married couple of 14 years had finished putting the finishing touches on the interior of the Galazio restaurant as they prepared for Wednesday’s grand opening of the Mediterranean restaurant located in a historic former train depot at 301 N. Clinton St. in downtown Albion.
The Hares have over a decade of experience in the restaurant industry in the Washington DC metro area, but have never owned a location.
They might not have become entrepreneurs without the pandemic.
“The pandemic hit and we had to close the restaurants there, like everyone else did,” Maggie said. “We were sitting in our living room, both out of work, not knowing what was going to happen. My parents had moved (to Albion) a few years before. We both talked about what we would do if we opened our own company.
“During the pandemic, like for so many people, we realized that life was too short and if we had to open our own business and put down roots, we had to do it now.”
The restaurant is independently owned and operated by the Hares, but the concept and recipes originate from Galazio Restaurant and Bar in Maryland, where the couple once worked.
The original location is owned by the Gressis family, who emigrated from Greece to the United States in the 1980s. Its founder, Iossif “Joe” Gressis died suddenly in September 2021, but not before giving his approval for the Hares to operate a second Galazio restaurant.
“We spoke with Joe, originally thought of doing a food truck,” Sean said. “We would like to do a menu like Galazio. (Gressis) said, ‘Why don’t you just do Galazio? The menu is tested, people love it. These are old world recipes that the Gressises have created. We love Galazio, Joe’s family and vision and wanted to continue.
A picture hangs near the entrance to the restaurant honoring Joe. It’s one of many personal touches the couple have added to the location, formerly Gina’s Pizza and Deli until owner Gina Pritchard retires in late 2021.
The Hares added new carpeting, lighting, hanging tapestries, and built a fireplace and bar that includes an Italian espresso machine. Some of the historic character remains, including an original ladder from when the century-old building served as a depot for the nearby train station.
AFTER: Historic Albion Railroad Depot gets a makeover after $300,000 donation from the Cram family
Rust Belt Ramen is opening a ghost kitchen in Albion, aiming to be a community staple
Harrington Elementary students select elements for the wading pool and playground at McIntosh Park
The cuisine is resolutely Mediterranean, mainly stemming from Greek and Italian traditions, such as gyros, baklava and chicken souvlaki. The restaurant is in the process of getting its liquor license, but will be offering mocktails in the meantime.
Galazio is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, with dinner served from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. It’s open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday brunch offered from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The business will open with 16 employees, although the Hares said they are looking to hire more staff and plan to add outdoor dining in the future.
Before Maggie spent time working in downtown Albion at Stirling Books and Brew, the couple said they were concerned about how they would be received by the small Calhoun County community of around 7,700 inhabitants. Instead, they said they found it extremely welcoming, with many seeing the addition of a restaurant as a boon to the town centre.
Jim Stuart, owner of Stirling Books and Brew, gave an example of the support the couple are receiving, helping to clean the parking lot with a pressure washer in the days leading up to the long-awaited opening.
“I appreciate that Galazio tries to be quality right off the bat,” Stuart said. “We attended their soft opening and the food was great. The staff, our neighbor works in the kitchen and they are so excited. They’re doing it right.”
Contact reporter Nick Buckley at email@example.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley