Olga Loizon, the trailblazing founder of one of metro Detroit’s most beloved restaurant chains Olga’s Kitchen, died Monday, January 21, according to a release. She was 92.
The daughter of Greek immigrants and a tenacious entrepreneur, Loizon got her start selling souvlaki from a stand in her driveway, she told Crain’s in December. Soon she was looking to level up to a full blown restaurant. Loizon was the first woman to secure a business loan from her local bank and used the funds to opened the original restaurant called Olga’s Souvlaki in a small, 10 foot-by-10-foot space in Birmingham, Michigan, in 1970. Six years later, she sold the brand to private investors but remained a fixture in the business.
Over the years, the Olga’s Kitchen chain became a memorable spot frequented by metro Detroiters who loved its pita sandwiches, curly fries, and Snackers. Many customers recalled those memories as news of her death spread on Monday evening.
From the 1990s and on into the present decade, the brand struggled to find its niche. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 and shuttered its downtown Detroit location. TEAM Schostak eventually bought out the company in November 2015. Under TEAM Schostak’s management, Loizon continued to make frequent appearances at the 26 current Olga’s Kitchens across the southeast Michigan region.
Loizon is survived by her husband, John Loizon, three children, Emily Kontos, Bill Loizon and Ernest Loizon and two grandchildren, Angelo Kontos and Katina Kontos. TEAM Schostak has also started the Olga Loizon Memorial Fund, an organization that will provide assistance to women entrepreneurs like Loizon. In lieu of flowers, the Loizon family has requested that check donations be sent to the fund at 17800 Laurel Park Drive North, Ste. 200C, Livonia, MI 48152.Private funeral arrangements are pending. Public condolences can be made on Olga’s Kitchen’s Facebook page, sent to the above address, or made in person at any Olga’s Kitchen restaurant.
• Olga Loizon, Founder of Olga’s Kitchen, Was First Woman to Get a Loan From Her Local Bank [Crain’s]
• Olga’s Kitchen Founder Olga Loizon Dies at 92 [Freep]
• A Legacy, Deliciously Seasoned: An Ode to Olga’s Snacker [Metro Times]
• All Olga’s Kitchen Coverage [ED]