Jim Karahalios, 1933-2013: Veteran restaurateur had 16 establishments

Jim Karahalios.
Jim Karahalios.

Jim Karahalios, a longtime restaurateur who invested his properties with dedication and hard work — from Tennessee and Kentucky to northwest Ohio — died Friday in Kingston of Sylvania. He was 79.

He died in his sleep, and the cause was not known, his daughter Aleca said. He had Alzheimer’s disease and lived in the memory care unit.

Over his career of restaurant opening, owning, and operating, he had 16 establishments. Many served pizza and Greek food, but he also had steakhouses, an upscale place, two shopping strips, and a Greek-themed nightclub.

Mr. Karahalios opened a Bowling Green pizza place in the late 1960s and in 1972 started J&G Pizza — as in Jim and Georgia, his wife — in downtown Sylvania. Retired Blade food editor Mary Alice Powell in 1975 credited him as being among the first in the Toledo area to serve gyro meat, the seasoned combination of lamb and beef that is roasted on a skewer and used in sandwiches.

“He always made his own,” his daughter Aleca said.

He sold J&G in 1979 and moved south to begin other ventures. He was based in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for several years.

Mr. Karahalios returned to Sylvania in the early 2000s and found a location downtown for what became Pappoulis Pizza. He sold the restaurant in 2010.

“He couldn’t stop working,” daughter Aleca said. “He retired three different times and went back to work.”

He was a skilled carpenter and woodworker, and he built much of his restaurants’ interiors, said daughter Christina, who owns a restaurant in West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, Andy Markos.

He taught his children business basics, and Christina still keeps her books by hand, after his example. There was another lesson: “That it’s a lot of hard work. You have to be devoted,” she said.

“He came from such a background, back home, they didn’t have much,” daughter Christina said. “He wanted to do whatever he could for his family, to provide for their well-being.”

He was born Feb. 19, 1933, in Leondion, Greece, to Christina and Vasili Karahalios. After mandatory military service, he worked in an uncle’s carpentry shop.

His future wife had moved to Toronto, where her brother lived. She sponsored Mr. Karahalios’ move.

“They came for a better life,” daughter Aleca said. “They did accomplish that, thank God.”

In Toronto, Mr. Karahalios was a hotel bell man and concierge and washed windows. His brother-in-law moved to Minnesota, and the couple followed. He worked as a bus boy, yet paid attention to the details of how a restaurant operated.

“He was very business-oriented,” daughter Christina said. “He was one who learned with his ears and his eyes. Everything he would see, he would catch on.”

He worked for his brother-in-law at a pizzeria in Missouri and opened his own restaurant in Carbondale, Ill.

“He looked for college towns and opened a lot of pizza places,” his daughter Aleca said.

Mr. Karahalios in the 1990s shipped building materials to his hometown in Greece, took down the old family homestead and built another, “American style, with wood instead of concrete and insulation and central air,” daughter Aleca said. He tried to return every year for a visit.

He taught himself to play the violin as a child. He continued to learn music, by ear, as an adult. Playing the violin was his favorite pastime, and he occasionally performed at festivals or weddings, but always “just for fun, not for a business,” daughter Christina said.

Surviving are his wife, Georgia Karahalios, whom he married Nov. 23, 1958; son, Bill Karahalios; daughters, Christina Markos and Aleca Kamilaris; sister, Dina Kotsonaros and brother, Tom Karahalios; eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. today in the Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary, with Trisagion prayers at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

The family suggests tributes to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.