Weaverville – “95 percent of the restaurants [that startup] fail the first year and 75 the second…For you to be relevant and awesome for 60 years, it’s just amazing,” said Chris Harris, Regional Sales Manager for US Foods to Gus Dermas of the Stoney Knob Cafe.
Dermas, cafe founder, received a crystal plate to acknowledge his 60-year relationship with the restaurant’s food supplier, US Foods. Dermas, 92, immigrated to America when he was 18 years old. Starting in New York, Dermas worked his way down to Western North Carolina, where he founded Stoney Knob Restaurant back in the 1960s.
“Thank you for letting us partner up with you,” added Harris, to which Dermas responded, “You are very welcome. We’ve had good service from you over the years.” Harris stated he has given out only three of these plates over the years.
Jimmy Fox, US Foods’ representative to Stoney Knob, read the inscription on the plate, “With our greatest appreciation for 60 years of success and partnership, US Foods would like to recognize the Dermas family…a successful leader of the Buncombe County Restaurant Industry since September 24, 1962. We are proud that you partnered with US Foods, and we look forward to many more years of partnering with the Dermas family.”
History in Cuisine
“I am honored actually and surprised that I lived this long to be here,” said Dermas when asked about his feelings about the occasion.
Dermas, who drove himself to the event that evening, still cuts his own grass and does his own weed-eating.
“I’m doing well at this age, 92, you know,” Dermas says.
Dermas recollected his story, “I’m an immigrant. I came here [America] when I was 18. Landed up in New York City and went around here and there, North Carolina, Virginia.”
When asked what drew him to North Carolina, Dermas said, “I had a sister that was married here in North Carolina, and I moved closer to her from Virginia.”
When drafted into the army, Dermas was assigned to be a cook. He went to Korea and also traveled to Germany, courtesy of Uncle Sam. After the Army, Dermas made his start in the restaurant business in Virginia, then Greensboro and Winston-Salem, before moving here to the mountains.
When asked where his first location was in Western North Carolina, Dermas said, “Right here. I bought half a financial interest in the place right here.” After 10 years, he bought his partner out, and “I kept it myself.”
After his boys grew up and moved away, and as Dermas got older and ready for retirement, his sons inherited the restaurant.
While the look of the old restaurant has changed along with the menu, the restaurant’s popularity only grew. Dermas credits the business’ success to patience, saying he only wanted to make a living for his family, “That’s all I wanted out of life. That’s all I still want out of life.”
He said he got satisfaction out of seeing people’s happiness after a meal.
John Dermas, one of Gus’ sons who took over the business, wants to thank US Foods for recognizing his family.
“Thank God for us being here and allowing us to do this all this time. Thanks to the patronage of everyone and to US Foods…Great company to work with,” John says.
John’s brother and partner in business, Yotty, added that he was grateful to the sales reps of US Food and the culinary ideas they brought him.