Q & A: Owner of Gullo’s Market Craig Hamilton
For Gullo’s The Name Says It All
Even if you’ve never visited Gullo’s in Shreveport, you’ve probably heard of them. Or more specifically, their mouth-watering, juicy burgers. However, last year, the beloved family-owned restaurant made headlines for another reason. A fire destroyed much of the establishment and forced them to temporarily close their doors. Patrons rejoiced when they re-opened earlier this year and ever since, Gullo’s has not missed a beat.
Owner Craig Hamilton talked with SB Magazine about their huge comeback, as well as the history of Gullo’s, the story behind their unique name, the secret to their success and more.
SB: So how did Gullo’s come to be?
Craig Hamilton: Gullo’s is originally the home of John and Reatha Gullo, my grandparents. They both worked full-time jobs and grew produce on the side. During the day, they would leave fresh vegetables for sale under their carport. No cashier, just a collection jar for the community to pay for their goods as they came by.
My great-grandparents and grandparents have been growing and selling produce dating back almost 60 years. Over the years, the demand for fresh produce kept growing, and eventually my grandparents established their own farm right off Harts Island Road, just down the street from their home. They hand-picked almost every produce item they sold for 20 years.
My grandmother always had a niche in the kitchen and my grandfather thrived on the idea of bringing fresh, local goods to the community. After the years passed, I believe they came together on the idea of enclosing the garage, and creating their own store, which is now Gullo’s Fresh Produce & Bake Shop still to this day.
SB: When did you know they had a hit?
Hamilton: Over the years, my grandmother started making to-go casseroles, along with cakes and desserts made from scratch, and I remember the response from the customers being amazing. They were always thanking her for providing great meals. The feedback was awesome, and I think it really drove them to keep growing and offering
I knew we were doing something right when the amount of gratitude was through the roof from our customers. We were always left with gratefulness from our supporters, and that’s when we knew we had a hit because people appreciated our motives, our ideas and what we wanted to bring to the Ark-La-Tex.
SB: The fire in 2015 that damaged the resaurant — was that the first time Gullo’s was hit with a setback of that magnitude? How big was the impact and damage?
Hamilton: The fire of 2015 was the first and probably biggest setback of my entire family history. I cannot compare it to anything that I have lived through up to this point. It was extremely hard to cope with the history of my entire family and [seeing] what they built burning down. The damage from the fire put us out of commission for almost 10 months. We lost almost every belonging of my grandparents in the fire. However, the the fire changed our entire perspective on the future of Gullo’s and how we were going to continue to bring our customers homegrown produce and homemade dishes once we re-opened.
SB: What was going through your minds when you heard the news and scoped out the damage?
Hamilton: I truly hope no family or business ever has to face what we did. When I heard the news I honestly did not believe it one bit. I couldn’t understand why or how
it happened, but it never crossed our minds that this was the end of Gullo’s. My family and I truly believe everything happens for a reason.
SB: So you re-opened in February. What are some of the biggest differences between then and now?
Hamilton: While we were closed for reconstruction, we had time to re-evaluate every single thing we cooked, served and sold. Family friends with culinary art degrees help us perfect almost every casserole we make and [improve] our grill menu offerings, as well. We have down-home southern comfort food, done the right way, and we are confident about it.
As far as produce, we jump through hoops constantly to hold the consistency of homegrown and only homegrown produce. Driving back and forth from East Texas and also to Oil City takes its toll, but we refuse to settle with after-market goods or low quality produce. That standard has been met since my grandparents were alive, and our number one goal will always be quality over quantity. We do not cut corners.
SB: What’s been the biggest surprise since re-opening?
Hamilton: The day of the grand re-opening in February, we fed more people than we ever had in 30 years and that blew us away. It really is a make-or-break moment as a business when re-opening. However, we hit it hard and ever since then, we have done nothing but keep our heads down and turn things up a notch. The community is the only reason we are still here. Their support has done nothing but driven us to work harder and keep cooking the best food possible at an extremely affordable price.
SB: What’s the most popular item on the menu besides the cheeseburgers with fries?
Hamilton: Monday through Friday, we serve hot plate lunch specials, and they are a hot menu item. Our traditional cheeseburger and homemade French fries easily are the bestsellers. But our current new menu item: the fried green tomato B.L.T. has also become a go-to for the customers.
SB: What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
Hamilton: My favorite dish on the menu is the Tuesday special, smothered pork chops. This is the real deal. We pan fry and smother an 8-ounce center cut pork chop in gravy, with fresh purple hull peas and turnip greens on the side.
Hamilton dropped one more bit of news: “We have large plans to extend our second location downtown on Marshall Street, next door to government plaza in 2017.”
Gullo’s is open daily at 724 E. Flournoy Lucas
Road in Shreveport. Like them on Facebook at Gullo’s Fresh Produce & Classic Bake Shop. Call them at 318.797.0361.