West Columbia’s Zesto, to Pete Manos from Gus, the tradition endures
By Karamie Sullivan
One of the most recognizable images in West Columbia’s Triangle City is the “chocolate dipped cone in the sky.”
That icon draws attention to Zesto on 12th Street. Of course the highly popular fried chicken, Zestoburgers, hot dogs and shakes beckon, too.
The restaurant has been a staple in the community for decades, having opened in 1949. After Zesto’s original opening, the business, in 1961, was taken over by Gus Manos. Gus immigrated from Greece as a young boy.
The Manos family still owns the restaurant today, now being co-owned by Gus and his son Pete. And Pete has his own style.
“You’ve always got to evolve with the times, in every facet of the business,” said Pete. “But my dad and I have been a good operation, working it together.”
Pete has been co-owner with his father since 2003, but Zesto has been a part of his life since childhood.
“Oh, it’s all I knew, but I enjoyed it” said Manos. His father Gus stopped going to college when he bought Zesto, which made him want the opposite for Pete.
“My father vowed that I would get a college education,” he said. “So he made me get it, which I’m glad I did. And for awhile maybe I thought about something different until I realized this was all I knew.”
Coming into partnership with his father seemed like an easy decision, according to Pete.
It’s been in the past five-to-ten years that Manos has begun to take on more of the store duties, with his father now being 80 years old.
“I’ll never compare myself to him because I can never be him, I mean the man is amazing,” said Pete.
He recalled a time back in the 1970’s when he was impressed that his father could remember the seven employees’ weekly schedule availability. “I just wondered, how does my dad remember the times all these people can work?” said Pete. Now with 85 current employees, Pete has discovered that he has retained the memory of their schedules himself.
“Now we have expanded, but I think it’s time to take care of what we have,” said Manos.
Even though the restaurant is doing very well, Pete says he will not open another location. The Zesto team likes being “hands on,” and he feels that his family and the employees would lose that opportunity with continued expansion.
Manos also said he doesn’t see an end to his time spent in the Zesto business.
“My dad is 80 and he still comes in here every day, so I figure hard work is maybe the way to avoid getting old,” he said.
Zesto is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and closed Sundays.