Pete's Famous Hot Dogs

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Gus Koutroulakis at Pete's Famous Hot Dogs in 2010

Pete's Famous Hot Dogs was a legendary Birmingham hot dog stand that was operated by Gus Koutroulakis and his wife Kathy, located at 1925 2nd Avenue North (map).

The business, which occupied an extremely narrow 7' x 20' space, was founded as Louis's Place in the 1910s. In September 1939, Gus' uncle, Pete Koutroulakis, won $300 over the course of a weekend playing pinochle at the Greek Club. He got a partner to match his investment and bought the business for $600. Pete bought out his partner seven years later, made some renovations to bring the store up to municipal code, and bought the $500 neon sign that advertised the store as Pete's for the next 72 years, until its closing.

On January 18, 1948, Pete took a four-month trip to Greece to visit his aging father. His twin brother, George, who owned a fruit distribution business on Morris Avenue, stayed behind and sent his son, Gus, to run the restaurant, essentially a lunch counter, until Pete came home. Not long afterwards, Pete suffered a heart attack and Gus, his nephew, took over day-to-day business and determined to "make the best of it". He worked at the store practically every day for the rest of his life.

Before he married he often worked from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, seven days a week, leaving no time for any other pursuits. After marrying Kathy he modified his hours, starting the day at 11:00 AM and leaving after the lunch crowd slowed in the afternoons. He brought on Douglas Houghton as a second employee in 2007. He feared what would happen to his mind if he retired altogether.

Pete's Famous served hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks (in glass bottles). The Zeigler hot dogs were available plain or as a "special" with mustard, sauerkraut, and a secret-recipe ground-beef based sauce. There was also a "hot beef" sandwich with just the meat sauce served on a hamburger bun. Gus was assisted by his wife, Kathy, and by long-time employees Sam Alongi and Alex Likis.

After Gus Koutroulakis' death on April 5, 2011, the stand was closed. In May, the iconic neon sign was removed from the building and donated to the Birmingham History Center, now in the possession of the Vulcan Park Foundation.

Gallery

References

External links

  • "Gus" short documentary film by Joe York for the Southern Foodways Alliance
  • "Hot-Dogopolis" short documentary film by the Southern Foodways Alliance
  • Pete's Famous Hot Dogs at southernfoodways.com