BALTIMORE, MD – The successful Greek-American restauranteur Stelios Spiliadis is 80 years old and his initial reaction to someone breaking into his Black Olive Restaurant, 814 S Bond Street in Fells Point, causing damage to a video screen, pulling the register from the counter, and stealing a small amount of cash, was exactly like most people’s, “Of course, my first response was a degree of anger. I am a human being,” he told the Baltimore Sun.
Spiliadis next response was surprising, he wanted to find the culprit and offer him a job.
He said, “I don’t want him to go to jail. I want to see if there is an alternative for him, in the form of a decent job, and would he take it? I will start him in a very structured way, in a very structured job like [bussing tables], and he will be on probation like everyone else. I will tell him, ‘Look at all the trouble you went through for a small amount of cash. We never have much cash here. Look at the time wasted, the damage to my business, the time of the police… Get together with me and work. I will give you a job, and you will pay me back — I am a Greek businessman, you will pay me back — and then you will have a job, and a career,’” the Baltimore Sun reported.
The article noted that it can be difficult for those with criminal records to find jobs and while some employers do offer opportunities, only Spiliadis in the Baltimore area has offered a job directly to the person who actually stole from his restaurant.
“I am not motivated by the Christian ethic of ‘turn the other cheek,’” Spiliadis told the Sun, adding that “one kid, one owner, one act can get me a place in paradise, but that’s not what the city needs. Look at that, we are both losers, that guy and I. My business has been reduced to a significant level as a result of the perception that the county has of safety in Baltimore. And he’s a loser — he has no future doing what he’s doing. To take the amount of time he did, the kind of risk he did, and for what? He is a loser.”
Spiliadis grew up in Greece, studied philosophy at Columbia University, and worked in Sheepshead Bay restaurants, waiting tables to pay the rent. After graduating from Columbia, he moved to Baltimore to attend Johns Hopkins University, where he met his future wife Pauline, a librarian, when he returned an overdue book. The couple has two sons, Andreas and Dimitris. Spiliadis worked for 30 years as a social worker before deciding to open Black Olive in 1997.
The young man in the security camera footage will have to turn himself in before the plan to change his life for the better can be implemented. At press time, the suspect has not yet been caught and there is no way of knowing if he has even heard of Spiliadis’ offer to be trained to work in the elegant Greek restaurant.
The Spiliadis family association with fine food and hospitality goes back to their roots in Northern Greece, then to a move to Constantinople, and a successful hotel and restaurant on the coast of the Black Sea. As noted on the Black Olive website, “When the Greeks were forced out of Turkey in the 1920’s, the family moved back to Greece, and eventually opened up a taverna in the city of Patras,” adding that, “many of the same recipes used at the Black Olive Restaurant today were cultivated and honed in those years.”
More information about Black Olive is available online at: theblackolive.com.