How a craving for tastier pita grew into a national brand
1979 by brothers George and John Kashou
Milwaukee’s Northwest Side
Family Members on Staff
Six, with contributions from others
Specialty breads, including pita bread, sold under the Kangaroo brand name and Sandwich Bros. brand flatbread pocket sandwiches.
Where Did That Name Come From?
The brothers wanted a non-ethnic brand name that described the primary feature of their pita bread product – the pocket. “It was cutesy,” says George.
Salem, you recently took over your dad John’s spot as president of the company. What’s the biggest challenge?
Salem: “[It’s about] me coming out of the shadows and trying to be my own person, while trusting my managers and empowering them.”
John: “I was on vacation for two weeks and there was a coup! Seriously, it was time for a change.”
What’s the downside of working in a family business?
Salem: “Sometimes you get locked into your own family mindset. We’ve been hiring a lot of new people, so it’s nice to have an outside perspective.”
George: “Getting John into the office on time. Or getting John in the office, period (laughing).”
Why did you decide to get into the pita business?
John: “I wanted a falafel sandwich. After buying some pita at the store, I discovered how awful it was. That was the ‘aha’ moment.”
Salem: “We like to eat with our hands, because of our Mediterranean upbringing. At the time, there was no quality bread in Milwaukee that you could scoop with or stuff with food. Our cultural identities were at stake.”
George: “My wife was pregnant and really craving a good pita.”
What are your favorite items to put into a pita?
Salem: “A chopped salad of ripe tomato and avocado, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. Or dipping bread into olive oil mixed with zaatar [sesame/herb blend]. Both are highly addictive.”
George: “Scrambled eggs and cheese.”
John: “Falafel, of course!”
Are there any business ideas that were proposed that you’re glad you didn’t move forward with?
George: “John wanted to convert our bread and dough waste into carbohydrate fuel. It took a lot of talking to convince him that high oil prices would soon subside.”
So, you’re looking to expand the company’s footprint?
Salem: “We are at capacity here. We’re hoping to be in a new building by the end of the year. We don’t want to move [away]. This is our hometown.” ◆
‘Kangaroo Brands’ appears in the November issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
Find it on newsstands beginning October 31, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.
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