After 26 years serving King County in multiple locations, Gyros House Mediterranean Grill is closing its Renton restaurant’s doors, Friday, May 29.
The family business will continue to serve the community through catering. The closure comes from a combination of unsustainable rent increases, the financial impacts of COVID-19 and previous preparation for a move from restaurants to catering.
Moussa Elmoussa, the owner and founder of Gyros House, moved to Washington from Lebanon in 1990. With experience as the head of a graphic design department, he got a job as a graphic designer atThe Seattle Times.
But he had a passion for food since he was a teenager. With the help of new friends, and business classes at Seattle Community College, he started his restaurant at the food court of the Federal Way Commons in 1994, when it was SeaTac Mall.
Moussa Elmoussa used recipes from Dalal Elmoussa’s half-Greek heritage, and his time cooking while living alone in Lebanon, to create a Greek-Lebanese fusion menu at Gyros House. The Commons was a bustling place to be, and customers quickly became regulars and then like family.
“Back then there was no YouTube. You couldn’t look up these recipes,” Moussa Elmoussa said.
It was immediately a family business as well— when Moussa Elmoussa’s daughter Diana Elmoussa, 26, was just two or three years old she would “run” the cash register. Now she helps run the business and her brother works there. Customers have watched them grow up at Gyros House, and today Diana Elmoussa’s husband helps with the business as well.
In 2011, they moved, expanding to a large-scale restaurant at The Landing in Renton, and opened a Covington location in 2014. Eventually they had just a Renton location. The business also moved locations within The Landing over the years.
Earlier this week, Diana Elmoussa shared on Facebook that Gyros House would be closing and said she was pleasantly surprised by the positive comments from customers saying they cherished the meals there.
The family is sad to leave, but say it was the right time. The restaurant was not being supported financially, Diana Elmoussa said, and rent was too expensive at their location, in a time where businesses are looking for relief. She said they’ve even seen rent increases during March, April and May. Moussa Elmoussa called it bad timing with the additional financial impacts from shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Luckily, Gyros House had been preparing to make the full switch to catering for some time, which it has been doing for large events and companies in the Puget Sound since around 2008.
“We’re sad we won’t be there for people’s weekly lunch or dinner run. We had predicted that if we stayed at the location for the next couple years, we would need to close permanently. And with this on top of everything, it was way too much,” Diana Elmoussa said. “It’s better to do this (closure) now than in the future.”
Even though the pandemic hit Gyros House hard, that didn’t stop Moussa Elmoussa over the last couple months from donating vegetarian and meat sandwiches to healthcare workers throughout King County. They created a GoFundMe to help them offer “Gyros for Healthcare Heroes.”
Moussa Elmoussa said his philosophy is that it’s good to leave a positive mark on your community. By helping others, especially those on the front lines risking their lives during this crisis, we are giving back to the people who give so much to us. Gyros House has been involved with other nonprofits in the community in the past.
“When you put a smile on somebody’s face, it’s worth a million dollars,” Moussa Elmoussa said.
Gyros House Mediterranean Grill will now be doing catering for events for groups of 15 and up. At this time they will be only doing delivery orders. Moussa Elmoussa said it’s a Mediterranean menu, but that he is flexible to also offer other types of food if requested.