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The Greek Who Sold Bread to McDonald’s

Harry Tsakalos, who died on Sept. 6 at 93, was the Greek-American co-founder of the successful H&S Bakery. With his personal hard work as well as his co-partner’s Isidore “Steve” Paterakis, they turned the bakery with the letters representing their first names into a baking empire, and H&S Bakery is the major bread supplier of McDonald’s.

Friends and family describe Tsakalos as a devoted to his job, always warm and generous. “He was happiest when he was working at the bakery with his family. If he wasn’t sweeping the loading dock on Bond Street, he was asking the employees about their families,” recalls a grandson of his, Michael Tsakalos, of Hunt Valley.

H&S Bakery has grown into one of the largest bakers on the East Coast, producing more than 100 varieties of breads, rolls and specialty items, according to his grandson. A subsidiary, Northeast Foods Inc., has been a major supplier to McDonald’s since 1965 and is now the fast-food chain’s largest supplier of buns in the U.S, reports The Baltimore Sun newspaper.

Tsakalos was born in Vandergrift in 1919, Pennsylvania, and raised in Weirton, West Virginia. Along with his family they moved to Baltimore in 1936, where Tsakalos worked as a truck driver for Athens Baker, where he met his later co-partner Paterakis, but also Paterakis’ daughter, Liberty. In 1942, Liberty and Harry got married and about a year later they had a son, Nicholas Tsakalos.

Today, H&S Bakery employs more than 2,000, according to a company website, and deploys a fleet of hundreds of delivery vans and tractor-trailers that are familiar sights on Baltimore’s roads. The website boasts that “many of its products are still hearth baked for traditional European flavor and crust.” Tsakalos was an active member of the Greek American community of Baltimore.  The H&S company is now run by his grandsons; Harry, Michael and Christopher Tsakalos.

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