Well-known Detroit denizen and proud Greek-American, Olga Loizon, has died at age 92. The native of Detroit was known for her unique pita bread sandwiches, spinach pies, and curly fries. She ended up creating an empire that was inspired by her Greek roots.
It all started when the Greek-American woman was visiting Greece in the 1960’s. She found souvlaki to be an inspiration, and paid $300 for a vertical broiler to be shipped to Michigan just so she could perfect her craft — the original Olga’s sandwich!
Who could resist the lamb and beef, seasoned with Greek spices, with the added bonus of that tangy “Olgasauce,” as she dubbed it? She completed the sandwich with fresh tomatoes and sweet onions, and wrapped it in an Olga’s Kitchen pita bread, reminiscent of souvlaki she had enjoyed in Greece.
After experimenting with the recipe for a few years at her house, she was ready to take it public.
It was in 1970 when she opened the doors of her small Greek sandwich shop called Olga’s Souvlaki. It would grow into a popular restaurant chain known as Olga’s Kitchen, and would be frequented by generations of metro Detroiters.
By the mid-1980’s Olga’s Kitchen was flourishing and had a chain of over 50 sit-down restaurants spanning the USA. There were franchise locations as far away as New York City, Clearwater, Florida and Austin, Texas! Olga built her business on the quality of the food and the personalized service that patrons would experience.
Even after selling her ownership stake in the mid-1970’s, Olga continued to grow the empire of Olga’s Kitchen restaurants. She participated in many aspects of the business, from making personal appearances, to greeting customers and constantly making improvements to the menu.
Olga Loizon is survived by her husband John and three children, Emily Kontos, Bill Loizon, Ernest Loizon, and two grandchildren.
Her mark on Greek cuisine in the U.S. and the city of Detroit will live on. Her family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Olga Loizon Memorial Foundation. Please send your donations to: TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants, 17800 Laurel Park Drive North, Ste. 200C, Livonia, MI 48152. All proceeds will help provide financial assistance to Michigan’s aspiring female entrepreneurs.