CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Michael Birurakis, fresh from a six-month sabbatical, has begun a new chapter in his life. The fit 52-year-old has entered a phase where he is not ruled by the clock, a watch or the posted business hours of an "open" sign.
He has started a catering business at 816 Beech Ave., where he controls his time.
"I'm going for a bike ride with a friend as soon as this interview is over," he said with a ready smile. During the break, he said he traveled and got caught up on "Mike stuff."
Birurakis is the former co-owner of the popular Best of Crete restaurant at the Charleston Town Center Mall which closed Feb. 28 after nearly 30 years in business.
The industrious former Marshall University and West Virginia University football player began working when he was 12, delivering Charleston newspapers. He earned enough to pay for a trip to Greece when he was 15, beginning a lifelong love of travel, something he rarely had time for during his restaurant tenure. He said his only child graduated from college last year and is working, giving him some additional financial freedom.
"A lot of people would like for me to reopen the deli or a restaurant, but I was working 70 hours a week there. It was a very demanding thing. I did it for 20 years. I was on call all the time. It was rewarding, and I miss the customers, but it was confining. I like not having to put that key in the door at 7 a.m. It's not all about money," Birurakis said.
"It can consume you. People would say, 'Do you own the Best of Crete?' I'd say, 'No, It owns me.' This is a new chapter in my life. I started catering a couple of months ago. I'm not going to take on more than I can chew. I would rather do a good job for a few people than a so-so job for a lot of people," he said.
"I don't do individual orders, but I do orders for 10 or more people, offices and special occasions up to 100 people," he said.