Imagine being 17 years old, losing most of your family in a civil war in Greece, then being sent to live in a country where you did not speak their language and did not know a soul. Then imagine, through hard work, faith, and a great sense of humor, becoming a successful businessman and beloved member of the community. That is exactly what Jimmie Pourlos did.
Mr. Pourlos, founder of Jimmie’s Restaurant, was surrounded by family when he passed away at 85 years old on January 20, 2018, due to complications from an earlier stroke. He leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Ronnie, his sons Chris (Athena) and Deno, numerous grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, George.
Coming to the United States, and specifically Charlotte, he began working in his uncle’s restaurant. Two years later, at the age of 19, he bought that restaurant on Elizabeth Avenue, named it Jimmie’s, owned it and ran it for fifty years from 1953 to 2003. When Piedmont Community College, across the street, needed to expand, the original Jimmie’s was sold, and a new restaurant by the same name was built in Mint Hill. Son Chris remembers, “When we built this restaurant, there was only Harris Teeter. So much has happened since 2003.”
“My dad was proud of his Greek heritage, but even more proud to be an American citizen,” Chris said. Jimmie enlisted in the U.S Army to serve in what he now considered his own country. What does Chris consider the key to his father’s success? “He had such a strong work ethic–at one point he was working three jobs. He had so many friends and he could talk to anyone about anything. He never put himself first; he was definitely a people person. He was also always willing to help anybody at any time. Most importantly, he put his faith, family, and church above all else.” He was a strong presence in the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
When he wasn’t running the restaurant, dabbling in commercial real estate (yes, he did that, too) or spending time with his family, he was an avid hunter and fisherman. “He absolutely loved his beagles,” Chris said. “When I was a kid, I remember he always had ten or twelve of them.”
Jimmie went from a war torn country in abject poverty to become the owner of a popular and thriving restaurant; the American dream. Chris added, “He lived a full life. He was the kid who made good.”