John Proferis

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John Proferis

John G. Proferis (born December 6, 1899 in Sparta, Laconia, Greece; died September 24, 1972 in Birmingham) was a restaurateur, best known for founding John's Restaurant in downtown Birmingham in September 1944.

Proferis emigrated from Greece, alone, at age 15, arriving at New York City. Through a distant relative he was offered a job at a confectionery. After a year there he moved to Pennsylvania to live with a sister and continued in the confectionery business. In 1919 another relative recruited him to come to Ensley to work at the U.S. Cafe. Within a year he decided to invest some of his savings in a 50 percent stake in the Faust Cafe on Birmingham's 20th Street North. In the evenings he took English classes at Phillips High School.

In 1935 Proferis opened his own restaurant, The Casino, also on 20th Street. He met Cleo Kontos, daughter of Alex Kontos, and the two were married. During World War II Proferis relocated to Childersburg to operate the cafeteria at the massive Alabama Ordnance Works there.

Before the end of the war, Proferis left that job, sold the Casino, and opened John's Restaurant on 21st Street North, attracting crowds from the beginning with find seafood dinners and his famous cabbage slaw. Meanwhile, Proferis' cousin, Phil Hontzas emigrated during the war and took a job with another uncle, John Collas, at Niki's Restaurant on 2nd Avenue North. When Proferis was diagnosed with late-stage cancer in 1972, Hontzas was invited to purchase the restaurant, which he continued to operate, with his sons and grandsons, until they sold it to Shannon and Shana Gober in 2004.

Proferis' daughter, Zoë Cassimus, opened her own restaurant, Zoë's Kitchen, in 1995.

References

  • Atkins, Leah Rawls (1981) The Valley and the Hills: An Illustrated History of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama. Birmingham: Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society. ISBN 0897810317
  • Evans, Amy (March 11, 2004) Interview with Zoë Cassimus. Greeks in Birmingham oral history project. Southern Foodways Alliance