Coffee is the essential drink of Americans. People enjoy Vassilaros coffee on the go between jobs and shopping. A bold business initiative is presented by the Vassilaros company youth bringing their product to the kitchen table. John Joseph Papalas and Gianni Pastis promoted a line of coffee products at a recent St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Flushing Festival.
“We are making Vassilaros coffee a household name,” said John Joseph Papalas. “All the diners in New York serve Vassilaros coffee. We have been in business since 1918. Our main mission is to get our coffee into homes. We created a website at www.vassilaroscoffee.com. We work as salesmen from 5 a.m. in the morning. We open up, take care of emergencies, deliveries and accounts.”
“John Vassilaros manages the company as his father Antonis and grandfather John,” explained Gianni Pastis. “John tastes the coffee. Our classic Vassilaros coffee is from 1918 and is $5.00 a pound.”
Mr. Papalas said “espresso was introduced recently with a great response from the public. Espresso makes cappuccino. It was voted as the best coffee in the Hamptons. The finest coffee quality from Sumatra is in Vassilaros 1918 coffee at $8 a pound.” He is twenty-six years old. He was given the finest Greek-American education at William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Church in Flushing, New York. The businessman has been working at Vassilaros Company for two years. Mr. Gianni Pastis, a thirty-seven year old businessman, has been employed for six years. “Our families are from Ikaria, Greece,” he said. This Aegean island was mentioned frequently during our interview.
“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor,” – Aristotle. The Vassilaros family comes from an island of strong, independent people: Ikaria. “It derived its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who fell into the sea nearby. Administratively, the island forms a separate municipality within the Ikaria regional unit, which is part of the North Aegean region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Agios Kirykos. The historic capitals of the island include Oenoe and Evdilos.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icaria).
“It remained part of the Ottoman Empire until July 17, 1912 when the Icarians expelled a Turkish garrison and thereby achieved independence. After its independence, Icaria played a critical role in the liberation of Samos and Chios since it provided food and supplies through its Warship “Cleopatra” when the two islands fought for their independence. George N. Spanos (c. 1872–1912) of Evdilos, killed in a Turkish ambush on that July 17, 1912, is honored as the hero of the Ikarian Revolution. His bust, depicting him defiantly, with bandoliers and rifle in hand, may be seen at the memorial established in his honor at the site of his death located in the Icarian town of Chrysostomos.
“After the ravages of the war, the nationalists and communists fought in the Greek Civil War (1945–1947). The Greek government used the island to exile about 13,000 communists. …. In his analysis, “Rebels and Radicals; Icaria 1600–2000”, historian Anthony J. Papalas (East Carolina University) examines modern Icaria in the light of such 20th-century questions as poverty, emigration to America, the nature of the Axis occupation, the rise of Communism, the Greek Civil War and the rightwing reaction to radical post-war movements.
The Icarian Greeks (Ikariotes) are an ethnically Greek group whose ancestry consists of Pelasgian and Carian settlers, as well as Greek settlers from Miletus and Samos (Ionian civilization rooted in Anatolia). Historically, Icaria has been under the control of Polycrates‘ Sea Empire, the Second Athenian League, the Roman province of Asia, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Genoa, the Knights of Saint John and the Ottoman Empire before becoming an independent people on the 17th of July, 1912. Icarians are found throughout Greece, specifically on the Islands of Icaria, Thimena and Fournoi, Korseon, as well as in Athens, where a large community is found. The Icarian Diaspora can be found throughout the world, mainly in Australia, USA, Canada and United Kingdom. Icarian Greeks are closely related to other Aegean island Greeks, such as Greeks from Samos, Chios, Fournoi Korseon and Patmos, as well as Greeks from Anatolia.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icaria).
What is the future of Vassilaros coffee? Mr. Papalas explained “we see ourselves in supermarkets, high-end stores and in other American states. The public will become familiar with our name. We will project the Vassilaros name into the public consciousness. Everyone is drinking Vassilaros coffee in New York. Three and a half million cups are served a week. Our goal is to make sure people are drinking our coffee.”
“New York City’s role in the success story of Vassilaros & Sons Coffee cannot be overlooked. Every customer and account in all five boroughs have played a part in building the business to where it stands today,” according to https://vassilaroscoffee.com/our-story. My late father George Vlassios Tsounis had a luncheonette in Queens Plaza, the former factory district of Long Island City. “I use Vassilaros coffee from my patriot John,” he would say. His father was from Lemnos near the Vassilaros family island of Ikaria. Businessmen trusted Vassilaros Coffee owners as people of honor and principle. The next generation is building on this extraordinary reputation in the twenty-first century.