Recently elected into an at-large seat on the Valparaiso City Council, Evan Costas is following in his father’s political and business footsteps. Jon Costas, Evan’s father, served as the mayor of Valparaiso since first elected in 2003 and was succeeded by Matt Murphy.
The Costas family is born and raised here in Valpo, owning several businesses and buildings around the town. Evan’s dad owned a few buildings in the area where tenants at the time were on their way out when he and Evan came in with the first business, Le Peep, a licensed restaurant.
Costas trained for a couple of months before operating Le Peep, working various restaurant jobs such as a server and a dishwasher so he could learn the whole business. He and his family were in this together. He recalls his dad washing dishes while his mom helping upfront with the hostesses, all while he was on the line cooking.
Upon return from college at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., Costas and his family, along with the rest of the country, were still recovering from the 2008 crash, making it hard to find jobs.
Not long after the opening of Le Peep, an opportunity surfaced when the tenant down the street went out of business. Evan and his dad consulted Cory Muro, the restaurant owner. Cory who now oversees both Tomato Bar and downtown taco joint Ricochet suggested gourmet burgers.
“We kinda put all our eggs in that basket for a while and started opening up [more],” Costas said about the opening of Burgerhaus.
Currently, Burgerhaus has locations in three other Indiana cities and towns; Indianapolis, Schererville and Carmel.
As a prominent restaurant owner and operator, Costas spends a lot of time thinking about what’s next for himself and his businesses. He likes the idea of the opportunity presenting itself, instead of forcing the opportunity. Most of the opportunity for buildings for his restaurants have fallen into his lap, instead of setting out and searching for the location himself.
“I’m a Christian, I’m a believer and I think things happen in His time and that’s my thought process especially with this last location, with Brick Street [Burrito]. This is something that was very popular in San Diego,” Costas added.
Aside from owning Le Peep and Burgerhaus, Costas’ newest restaurant is something he’s been passionate about since college and thanks to another presented opportunity, he was able to create Brick Street Burrito.
“I view Brick Street as geared toward college students. That was what I lived off during college,” Costas said.
Brick Street Burrito uses tortillas shipped directly from San Diego, giving their burritos and tacos and authentic San Diego taste. Their well-liked California Burrito is a class San Diego meal including fries inside the burrito.
“I’ve had people come here that are from that area and say ‘This is spot on. This could compete with any of the tacos shops are that are out in San Diego’ and to me, that’s the biggest compliment because that’s what I tried to accomplish,” Costas said.
While Costas likes to think about “what’s next” for him and his family and their businesses, he said does feel excited about his latest opportunity as a member of the City Council.
When asked about his balance between the restaurants and City Council, Costas responded saying the timeshare will be manageable.
“I’ve got enough people on my leadership team to where If I need to shift things around to free up more of my time, it’s not that big of a deal, I can make that happen,” Costas said.
Costas felt apprehensive about the idea of running, but newly elected Mayor Matt Murphy encouraged him to run, causing him to consider the possibility of running and what that would look like for him.
“I had to consult a lot of people and I was just unsure if I could make that balance work. And as I thought more about it I thought, ‘You know, this is too important.’ The direction of the city is too important and the progress that we’ve made in the last 16 years is night and day to what it once was,” Costas said.
Costas admits none of this would be possible all on his own.
“My success depends on my people and employees and without them, I’m nobody. No matter what business you’re in, it’s important to treat your people well and make sure you get the right people in the right position to do their job well,” he said. “Everyones got different gifts and talents and they need to be in the right seat on the bus in order to be effective.”