Former UA football captain leads Niko’s to culinary victory
Meet Nik Schultz, a former UAlbany student who graduated in 2008 and is currently the owner of Nikos Café in the newly renovated Campus Center.
His senior year, he led the football team through an undefeated season as their team captain.
Originally a history major and an education minor student, Schultz wanted to build the team attitude into the restaurant workplace.
“I wanted to be a teacher and football coach, but, I had the attitude of building a team and coaching in the restaurant, where I hold people accountable and rely on people getting the job done.”
After graduating from college in 2008, he decided to own a food trailer that served Greek food because of his taste for Greek food, as well as a niche for a Greek eatery in the Capital Region.
“I was in business and opened up the Greek food trailer in 2012,” said Schultz. “It was opened during the summer in downtown Albany, near the Dutch Apple and the U.S.S. Slater. It was called Aegean, based on the name of the Aegean Sea.”
In 2014, he bought and opened up a place called Anton’s, which is located on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, N.Y.
“I realize that there were not as many places that served Greek food in the area that time,” said Schultz. “It is easy to make the food and we make things fresh and flavorful.”
Schultz’s decision to market his restaurant at an athletics golf outing at UAlbany grabbed attention to representatives of Sodexo and to representatives of the University Auxiliary Services.
“I basically said jokingly that there is a spot in the Campus Center for a football alumnus to make them food,” said Schultz. “This was during the construction phase in Aug. of 2017.”
During the time, Sodexo and UAS representatives tried Anton’s food two to three times a week during the summer of 2017. They sent Schultz an email about an opportunity to open his eatery in the Campus Center.
“UAS and Sodexo representatives wanted to talk to me about this new opportunity when a vegetarian café backed out last minute.”
Nikos Café opened in Aug. 2017, serving Greek favorites like gyros, wraps, and Greek nachos. Nikos also serves freshly squeezed blueberry lemonade and regular lemonade. Prices range from $5 to $10 for entrees at Nikos Café. Any student that has a UAlbany meal plan and an ID card can use their Discount Dollars to save 30 percent off their meal.
“There is a huge divide, between people who embrace it in New York City and those that are scared of Greek food because it is different,” said Schultz. “But, people will eventually enjoy it.”
Schultz wants to hire students who are motivated to work and motivated to committing to the team in the work setting.
“You need a good work environment,” said Schultz. “You need to be the best teammates.”
John Lacy, a human bio major and employee at Nikos Café, enjoys working at the establishment.
“I had no idea what Nikos was until my roommate told me about this place,” said Lacy. “Nik is a great boss who is very good at listening and with schedules. He is easy to get along with.”
Schultz also has plans to rebrand Anton’s as Nikos Café on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, N.Y. and eventually to become a fast food chain located in the Northeast.
“I would like to see Nikos Café become a fast, casual, and healthy location in the Northeast,” Schultz said. “I want fresh, tasty Greek food on the run and sandwiches made in front of you. I want to expand into SUNY Universities and the Northeast. Then, I want to eventually become a Northeastern chain and then, eventually nationwide.”
Schultz’s sister owns Humoli, which is a company that sells ravioli with hummus.
“I want to help my sister grow her business, push the product, find a niche in terms of being healthy, and have a good meal for athletes and students on campus,” said Schultz.
Schultz wants to also take opportunities when they are available to him, whether it is to motivate his employees or open new a new location.
“Don’t underestimate your dream,” said Schultz. “Take the opportunity and you are going to succeed.”