Each of us has special people in our lives that do things that impact the culture in their own way. We come across amazing people, whether for a lifetime or a blink of an eye. These people are Influencers. This is the first in an ongoing series of interviews where I interview the people in my life that I'm proud to know and work to impact the world around them.
Today's is Mike Toma, a restaurateur living in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Phoenix: What do you do for a living?
Mike Toma: I own and operate Mr. Gyros.
TP: When did you decide you wanted to do something like this?
MT: Probably at the age of 18 when I was working for someone here before. TP: You're actually a pretty young guy. How is it you're owning and operating a restaurant? MT: From years of hard work I put into the place, saved a lot of money and put it all together when I turned 21 and bought it out. TP: You mentioned this is a gyro spot, what made you wanna start working there as opposed to other places? MT: As a kid, gyros was one of my favorite, if not favorite thing to eat, and I'm from Chicago so I knew the food really well and how to serve it. TP: Phoenix is a pretty popular area to settle with Chicagoans, the Cubs and White Sox even play Spring Training in the metro area. Has there been a big hometown impact for the store because of that? MT: Not as much as I would like it to be, but over here in the Anthem area, I do have customers who appreciate what I do here because they're from Chicago and they understand what I'm doing and why I do it. TP: Was there anything you could really do to prepare for the challenge of owning a restaurant? MT: What helped me most was working in the place already for 4 years before owning it, so having that experience made it a lot easier on myself. TP: What are some sacrifices you've had to make to keep this up? MT: Majority of my free time is taken by this place, as well as finishing school, but all the right sacrifices to grow my business. TP: Any plans or ideas for the future you wanna talk about? MT: My dream is to franchise Mr. Gyros, at least having two of them open and running would be a dream come true for me. TP: That's awesome, man. Any ideas on a potential location? Phoenix, California, maybe back in Chicago? MT: Somewhere more north of Phoenix and Anthem, I'm thinking somewhere in Prescott or Sedona area. TP: Oh, awesome, that's a good idea. If there's one thing you'd consider your specialty, your favorite item at Mr. Gyros, what is it? MT: Definitely would be the classic gyros pita sandwich; shaved beef and lamb meat off a skewer served with our famous homemade tzatziki sauce with lettuce, tomato, and onions wrapped in a soft warm fresh pita. TP: Sounds amazing, man. Last question, what's your top five you're into? Movies, music, TV, podcasts, whatever. MT: Sports, food, music, comedies and gaming. TP: Anything specific? MT: Football first for sure, stand-up comedies and PS4 gaming for sports games. TP: Awesome, man. I'd like to thank you for your time, I know it's valuable. MT: Anytime I can help a friend, I will brotha, thank you too. TP: I wish you success, man.