This is Alma Selmanaj, the owner of To Spiti, a restaurant that she opened with her husband in 2015 after emigrating from Greece to the United States. Alma grew up in the food industry, working in her family’s restaurant in Greece for most of her life. So it was only natural for her that after arriving in the U.S. she began working in a restaurant before deciding to open her own Greek restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, using the recipes that were passed down through both her and her husband’s families.
The business is family run. Alma and her husband are the only two full-time employees so their days are long. As Alma says, they work “two days in one”. They wake up at 5AM every day to begin cooking the food for that day’s catering orders, do deliveries until 12 or 1PM, rest for a few hours and then return to the store at 5PM to get ready for their dinner rush. From 7PM until 12:30AM they are constantly serving customers on their way home from work or on their way out to the bars nearby. Once the last customer is served, they clean up for 30-45 minutes and then drive 30 minutes to their home, usually getting home around 1/1:30AM.
The most challenging part of running her own business is being responsible for every part of the business. She is the cook, the delivery person, the social media manager, the accountant.. the list goes on and on. She deals with so many different things on a daily basis that she says a lot of the time she forgets to eat, because she’s busy running from one delivery to another or back to the store to start prepping for that evening. Another tough part of being a restaurant owner? “You cannot sleep”. With so many different areas of the business to be in charge of, Alma says she doesn’t sleep more than 4 or 5 hours a night, even on a rare day that they close the store for a day off.
However, as much as being a restaurant owner is a “tired job” (as she says), she likes it too much to stop. She has always liked to work and is used to the fast pace of the food industry. And for Alma and her husband, all of their hard work pays off when a customer tells them how delicious the food is or how great the catering presentation looks. When that happens, she says, it erases how tired she is, because she loves making customers happy.
When asked if she would ever considering closing the storefront to focus on catering and give herself a break from the long days she works, Alma simply replied, “No, no, it’s my job, there is no other job. This is me.”