For Steven Kotridis, the food industry has always been a huge part of his life, so purchasing and preserving Dalessandro’s was something that has meant a lot to him.
The original shop was opened in 1961 by William Dalessandro and his family. But by 2008, only Dalessandro’s daughter, Franny, was alive and running the shop on her own. Kotridis found out Franny was interested in selling the shop and figured this was a great opportunity to take another big step.
Dalessandro’s was Kotridis’ favorite cheesesteak shop while he was growing up, so it was no surprise when he decided to purchase the shop from Franny Dalessandro in June of 2008.
“There was a business here for many years that was very successful and had a good product,” Kotridis said. “We brought the store up to date. We did some remodeling and brought in new equipment while keeping basically the same menu.”
After years of learning how to operate business within the food industry, Kotridis knew he wanted to make it his life’s work.
“When I was young, I didn’t have the patience to do anything else,” Kotridis said. “It was instant gratification. You serve the customers, whereas other things you have to work and wait.”
That customer-pleasing attitude stayed with Kotridis throughout his young adult years. He and his wife, Margie, eventually acquired their own pizzeria in 1982.
Margie Kotridis’ parents also owned a pizza shop in Center City, so both sides of the Kotridis family have extended history within Philadelphia’s food industry.
Though Steven and Margie Kotridis were not the only ones interested in buying Dalessandro’s, Steven Kotridis realized he had to do everything he could to take over the business.
“We were looking for years for something that we wanted to buy and there was a lot of wheeling and dealing involved,” Kotridis said. “Several people were interested but I guess I was the lucky one.”
After remodeling the inside of the shop and getting comfortable with the business, Kotridis decided to keep Dalessandro’s as a family-oriented business by bringing Margie and his daughter, Stephanie, on board.
“Working with my parents can get a little bit difficult,” said Stephanie Kotridis, who manages Dalessandro’s. “We argue a lot. If you’re in the store during a busy day, you definitely hear me and my mom arguing a little bit. It’s something that we’re used to. It’s something that we’ve learned to handle.”
Stephanie Kotridis realizes that the ups and downs are just part of owning a family business.
“I think that’s part of the thing that customers love so much,” she added. “They love that it is a family business and that we do really try and make sure they get the best experience possible.”
Dalessandro’s is known for it’s fresh cheesesteaks and hoagies because its policy is different than most places. Rather than making one’s sandwich right after getting off the phone, the employees wait until the customer shows up and puts the order to the front of the line. This way, each customer knows they’re getting a fresh sandwich.
This policy has worked for the business for years. But with the combination of numerous phone orders and walk-up orders, it can have its negative aspects.
“A difficulty we have is we’re a little cramped downstairs,” Steven Kotridis said. “Weekends are extremely busy. If people have to wait 15 to 20 minutes for a cheesesteak, it’s probably due to people coming up to the counter and not having their mind made up or changing things after they order. But we try to run things as smoothly as we can.”
Despite these difficulties, their number one concern is customer satisfaction. Even though they may have some problems behind the counter, Steven Kotridis and the rest of the Dalessandro’s staff will make sure the customers will be eating a fresh product.
“It’s very rewarding to watch your customers buy food that they enjoy and provide them with great customer service,” Kotridis said. “Both me and my wife have been in the food business for years and we really enjoy dealing with people and providing them service. When you know your product is undoubtedly the best, that’s very satisfying.”
Above all, the Kotridis family enjoys interacting with the neighborhood customers that regulate their shop often.
“My favorite part of the shop is the cheesesteaks of course but mostly the people that come in,” Margie Kotridis said.
— Text, images and video by Patrick Paul and Chelsey Hamilton.