When I started the last blog series on old fashioned ice cream parlors, I honestly thought I’d find just a handful. I was happy to discover more than I could have imagined — or blog about. Readers were kind enough to remind me of ice cream parlors I’ve blogged about in the past including the over-one-hundred-year-old Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Flushing, New York, and Zaharako’s in Columbus, Indiana. Some people clued me in on others I had missed like Crown Candy Kitchen in St. Louis, Missouri, Flesor’s Candy Kitchen in Tuscola, Illinois, Homer’s in Wilmette, Illinois, and Gray’s in Bristol, Rhode Island.
I looked up the ones I missed and reviewed the ones I published and noticed a trend. Take, for example, the above mentioned Zaharakos and Flesor’s. Both opened at the start of the 20th century and both by Greek immigrants. Zaharako’s was founded by three brothers named, you guessed it, Zaharako, and Flesor’s by Gus Flesor.
Those weren’t the only two. I found others that were started by Greek immigrants and continue to be run by their children to this day. Leopold’s in Savannah, Georgia was founded in 1919 by Peter, George, and Basil Leopold and is now run by Peter’s son, Stratton. Ninety-two-year-old George Nopoulos keeps The Wilton Candy Kitchen going 102 years after it was opened by his father, Gus. Steve and Dean Poulos operate Homers, the parlor their father, Gus, started in 1935.
It turns out that a mass wave of Greek immigration coincided with the golden age of ice cream parlors. During the early 1900s, Greeks were fleeing persecution by the Ottoman Empire and finding their way to America. Once here, they took part in an explosion of ice cream parlors and soda fountains. While I’ve always been a sucker for an immigrant success story, I really enjoyed discovering a bit of history that made a big impact on the American ice cream story.