Dimitrios (Jimmy the Greek) Antonopoulos who build a Greek restaurant chain in Canada has been featured in an InsideToronto.com story.
Antonopoulos emigrated to Canada in 1963. As the youngest of six children born into a poor farming family in Nafplio, Greece, the now-78-year-old didn’t know a word of English. He had only a fourth grade education and little-to-no money to his name.
But, what he did have in spades, said daughter Toula, was “grit and foresight.”
“He had the vision and the belief in himself to make it happen,” she said of her father’s determination to build his Jimmy the Greek chain from the ground up — from a lone restaurant in downtown Toronto’s First Canadian Place to a thriving empire of quick-service restaurants.
InsideToronto.com says that when Antonopoulos first arrived in this country with his new bride, Helen, on his arm, the pair settled briefly in Montreal, where he worked making sandwiches at the local Woolworth’s cafeteria.
Upon the couple’s relocation to Toronto a few months later, he translated those new-found culinary skills first into work at a greasy spoon in Scarborough — where he learned to use a grill — and then at other local restaurants.
His first restaurant, the Epikourion, opened in 1979 at First Canadian Place. After a few slow years, the restaurant expanded — and by 1985, lunch-hour demand was so high that Antonopoulos was turning customers away because he simply couldn’t seat everyone in the small restaurant.
And that, Toula said, was when Jimmy the Greek was born. Today, Jimmy the Greek boasts 54 franchises across the country — including restaurants in Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba, as well as many in Toronto and the GTA.
Helen, with whom he would have celebrated 54 years of marriage this month, passed away in April — and without his “built-in best friend” at home in East York, he likes to keep busy.
Coming in to check on the business at First Canadian Place twice a week, Toula said, is what keeps her father going despite the devastating loss of Helen.
“Coming here is very therapeutic for him. They used to call him the mayor, because he was the longest tenant here and everyone knew who he was,” she laughed.
“He loves this building; he loves the people here; and most of all, he loves feeding them.”