He is pictured by the antique 1928 sewing machine that has been a cornerstone of the business since it opened.
Gus is a mainstay of Eastown Grand Rapids. He owns one of the oldest shops in the area, started by his father after emigrating to the United States from Greece after World War Two. He loves to talk, and gets to know each of his customers well.
Gus was born a first generation Greek-American on July 13, 1947. His mother and father met in Greece during World War II, when the Nazi’s asked his father (George) to take a census. His mother was single, but George knew that if she was listed as such she’d become a bar maid for the Nazis. So George listed her as his fiancée. Here’s the story in full:
Gus’ mother came the United States while pregnant with him as a part of a Truman program to emigrate women out of the war zone. Gus said she threw up the entire voyage; Gus jokes it was he that was sea sick. His father emigrated some time after, for he had been captured by the Nazis as a POW (over a mistaken car ownership).
Gus was drafted to the US Army during the Vietnam era. He said he was proud to go – that it made his parents proud. He was listed for combat, and his father worried Gus would be killed, so he declared his son as the last of his name, or Sole Surviving Son. That should have removed Gus from direct combat, but Gus declined.
He trained in Louisiana for a Vietnam mission, but that’s not where he ended up. Right before they were shipped, North Korea shot down a U2 plane and threatened to declare war. Gus’ regiment was instead directed to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea from 1969 to 1970. Unfortunately, Gus was stationed directly when and where Agent Orange was dispensed. As with many soldiers from that era, the chemical has had a lasting affect.
Gus returned to Grand Rapids and transitioned into the National Guard. In the late 1980’s, Gus began helping his father at his shoe repair shop, located in Eastown Grand Rapids. Here he speaks about being conned into helping his dad and learning the trade.
Today Gus is known as a mainstay of Eastown, running one its oldest businesses. He is planning to retire soon, due to the cancer that resulted from exposure to Agent Orange. Still, his spirits are high. Neighbors can expect to see him cruising around in one of his two Mustangs for some time to come.