Giordano’s files for bankruptcy, stores will stay open

Kris Anne Bonifacio

It may be bankrupt, but the pizza’s not going anywhere.

The Chicago-based Giordano’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, but the pizza chain, famous for its stuffed pizza, will keep its franchises open after the court granted the company $36 million in bankruptcy loans to continue operations.

“Our store will continue working,” said Vladimir Georgiev, the manager of Giordano’s in Evanston. “Everything will run as normal.”

The bankruptcy results from the effects of the 2007 real estate market crash. The Apostolou family that owns Giordano’s also owns a real estate company, Randolph Partners LLC, that handles properties in Illinois and Florida. Randolph Partners have been unable to sell or lease properties the past few years, causing the company to default on their loans from Fifth Third Bank. They owe the bank about $45.7 million, according to bankruptcy court documents.

Giordano’s was founded in 1974 by Efren and Joseph Boglio, immigrant brothers from Italy. John and Eva Apostolou purchased the restaurants, which feature Italian cuisine and stuffed pizza, in 1988. Five years ago, they opened six restaurants in Florida, expanding the business outside Illinois. The company currently owns more than 55 restaurants in Illinois and Florida. Randolph Partners owns 12 of the Giordano’s restaurant buildings, while the company leases the other locations from third-party landlords. Giordano’s also owns American Foods in Mount Prospect, where the company buys food products for their restaurants.

The Apostolou family filed a total of 33 voluntary petitions for bankruptcy for all these businesses Wednesday.

Northwestern student Jason Lederman said he’s concerned about the news of Giordano’s bankruptcy. He said it’s a tradition for the sousaphone section of the Northwestern University Marching Band to go to the Evanston location of Giordano’s, 500 Davis St., every Monday night, because the restaurant offers 50 percent off on dine-in dinners. If the restaurant closes, they’ll have to find a new location for their annual tradition, he said.

“It was nice to be able to go with my friends and have dinner,” the Communication freshman said. “I happen to like Lou Malnati’s better, but it’s more expensive, and it was nice to hang out and have cheaper pizza.”

Medill sophomore Seth Bernstein said he was very surprised to hear Giordano’s was filing for bankruptcy. Bernstein, a Chicago native, said he did not go to Giordano’s much before coming to NU because he prefers other pizza places in the city, but since getting to college he goes there once every two weeks.

“Giordano’s is the best one around here,” he said. “I can’t believe they’re going bankrupt. It almost came out of left field, because I haven’t seen any rumors or seen anything about it in the newspapers or TV.”

The news comes the same week that Borders bookstores also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But unlike Borders, Giordano’s will keep its locations open. Bernstein said he anticipates Giordano’s is unlikely to close its locations now that it has filed for bankruptcy.

“These bankruptcy protections end up for the better usually,” he said.

Fifth Third Bank is giving the company a $36 million loan, which will be spent in part to pay employees and vendors. As part of the loan agreement, the Apostolou family will have to restructure their companies, liquidate the Randolph Partners’ real estate assets and look into possibly selling Giordano’s.

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