When people walked through the bright blue doors into Mykonos Authentic Greek Cookery, owner Andreas Salivaras met many with a look. Most got a big-grinned welcome. But not everyone.
“When you walked in and he eyed you, something was up,” said friend Nikitas Manias. “You didn’t even get to sit down.”
Manias would say, “I’m looking for the look.”
“No look today,” Mr. Salivaras would reply.
That look meant he wanted to talk about something important.
As a Greek immigrant, the owner of an iconic business, a husband, father, grandfather and neighbor, Mr. Salivaras held court in Mykonos, concerned with several things — his family, his church, his business and the community he made his home.
“He was the unofficial mayor of Tarpon Springs,” Manias said.
Mr. Salivaras died May 18 of natural causes. He was 80.
Mr. Salivaras grew up on Kimolos, an island in Greece. It was so small, he had to catch a fishing boat to another island for middle school.
At 26, he came to join family in Cleveland.
He learned English and grew to love his new country. Mr. Salivaras married and had a son and daughter. He started baking bread in a windowless bakery.
The couple divorced, and Mr. Salivaras met his second wife when his son, then 8 or 9, walked out of the house in his pajamas one night, sick with a fever. Renee found Dimitrios Salivaras and took him home. The two reconnected later at a wedding, when he asked her out for coffee.
“You do realize that we’re going to get married,” Mr. Salivaras told her.
“You’re crazy,” she replied.
For months, he drove to Chicago in a Chevette every weekend to see her.
They were married for 32 years and had a daughter together.
Mykonos put the Salivaras’ children through college and helped their two daughters buy first homes, but finding the right business in the right place took time.
The Salivaras, who moved to Tarpon Springs in 1982, ran several restaurants, including Rockefeller’s in downtown Tampa. It went under when Harbor Island opened.
In 1991, the couple opened Mykonos in a popular spot along Tarpon Springs’ Sponge Docks. Success came, son Dimitrios said, because they learned from their mistakes and brought a different way of thinking about their customers.
“When people came to Mykonos, they knew you forever,” said Dimitrios, owner and executive chef at nearby Dimitri’s On The Water. “It took both of them to make Mykonos what it is.”
Mr. Salivaras only served fresh food that he’d make for his family.
The Greeks have a word for it, said friend of 50 years, Dimitri Karterouliopis — mageirión.
The restaurant was a business and a place to connect as a community. Mr. Salivaras would often pull up a chair and talk with friends, tourists and neighbors.
“It’s not like going into an Outback or something just to eat,” said Manias, now on his 15th round as president of the Parish Council at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. “You went in there and learned what the church needed.”
Mr. Salivaras called him once a month or so to talk about the church, young people and local politics.
“He was the ambassador,” said Karterouliopis, who was planning a trip back to Greece with his best friend later this year.
When Mr. Salivaras concentrated, he’d stick his bottom lip out, daughter Sofia Zaronias said. He changed his chef’s coat on busy days to look nice for customers. He wore John Varvatos cologne every day, because his wife loved it. He kept wearing it even after she died in 2010.
Mr. Salivaras’ children and grandchildren now run the restaurant. Mykonos will continue.
But his death is a loss for the community, said Anna Billiris, vice president of Flagship Bank and vice president of the parish council.
As older generations pass, she said, “we’re trying to hold on to as much as we can.”
Her family started the Saint Nicholas Boat Line in the early 1920s, and it’s still running.
“That is Tarpon Springs,” she said, “and Andy was Tarpon Springs.”
Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.
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