Nick Apostolakos, owner of Snoopy’s, 6317 W. North Ave, has more than 40 years of hotel, bar and restaurant experience. But he wasn’t prepared for the challenges opening a restaurant post-pandemic would bring. Snoopy’s, with its dependable menu of hot dogs, gyros and burgers, is the first solo venture for the industry veteran who has been a partner in two prior restaurants.
Apostolakos is a devoted husband and father to a college-aged daughter and he built the business to be his family’s primary means of support. Though he named his daughter after a Greek goddess, Snoopy’s is named after Apostolakos’ Maltese-Shitzu mix. Naming the restaurant after his four-legged friend, however, proved to be the easiest aspect of the new endeavor.
A brief search led Apostolakos to the North Avenue property in June 2020. He was attracted to the location situated on a busy throughfare because of its proximity to both Chicago and Oak Park — he was also drawn to the ample parking available in the strip mall and ease of entry and exit. Having run a similar business on Grand and Austin in Chicago he thought the space would draw customers craving well-made fast food with a focus on quality and freshness.
He invested $75,000 to update the former hot dog stand. The hefty personal investment was intended to set the family up for success. He spent four months on the renovation but waited an additional seven months before Snoopy’s was given the green light by the Village of Oak Park to open for business. The delays in approvals proved costly and inconsistency in business from day to day have already thrown the future of Snoopy’s into question.
“For a restaurant to survive it needs regular customers,” said Apostolakos matter-of-factly. “We have been open for seven weeks and things are difficult. I am feeding the restaurant with my own money, but I never miss a payroll.”
His cook recently left his position to take a higher paying job at another restaurant. As much as Apostolakos wanted to be able to pay a higher hourly wage Snoopy’s does not have enough daily revenue to pay a higher hourly rate. Swings in daily business are baffling to the business owner—one day he can generate a couple thousand dollars in revenue and the next he is lucky if he brings in $300. The feast or famine aspect of the restaurant world is unfamiliar to Apostolakos who was regularly bringing in $3,000 per day at his previous establishments.
“I can’t help but wonder if I had been able to open six months ago if I would have been doing well today,” said Apostolakos. “It is hard to know for sure, but everything is different now — labor costs are high and so are ingredient prices. I am struggling to get ingredients, too.”
On the positive side Apostolakos credits his best and busiest days to local support from residents interested in supporting small businesses. Snoopy’s experiences big business boosts from positive posts inside the Takeout 25 Oak Park Facebook group. When customers praise his offerings on the platform it translates to a notable rise in business. When interest in the powerful posts wane, however, so does business.
In the meantime, the owner has hired a new chef who will be enhancing Snoopy’s menu of Greek and American fare with more vegetarian options. Diners should also expect to find tacos, burritos, rice and beans on the menu in the coming days. Apostolakos expects the added variety will appeal to potential customers.
“I need a little bit of help right now and want people to know Snoopy’s is here,” said Apostolakos. “We are starting to see some regulars and would obviously welcome even more.”
With a little consistency Apostolakos is hopeful Snoopy’s will make it long term.
*This article has been update to correct an error in the address. Snoopy’s is located at 6317 W North Ave.