|Gus Apostol (from Burnside: A Community. By Kathleen Ryan & Mark Beach. 1979.|
Gus Apostol and the Old Town Café
By John Shulick
Gus Apostol was the embodiment of the American Dream. To tell his story is to tell the story of so many people who came to America in search of opportunity and hope for the future. Through his tireless efforts, Gus not only made a good home for his family and helped his local community, but also made the world a better place for those he left behind in his native country of Greece.
Gus was born in 1894 in Olympia, Greece, a tiny village on the west coast of the ancient land. His father died when he was twelve years old. Being the oldest male in the family, Gus traveled to America in 1914 in order to find a way to support his mother and family. Originally, his name was Constantinos Apostolopoulos, and he shortened his name to Gus Apostol in 1927 when he became an American citizen.
Gus worked as a shipping clerk, a “strapper” in box factories, and in Oregon's sawmills. With the financial help and positive encouragement from the Greek community, he opened the Spokane Café at Madison and SW 3rd Avenue in 1944. From 1945 to 1956, Gus owned the Utah Café at 300 W. Burnside.
In 1956, he opened the original Gus' Café at 25 NW 3rd Avenue. When Portland went through some remodeling in the 1970s, Gus moved his restaurant across the street to 32 NW 3rd Avenue. He sold his business in 1973 believing that it was his time to retire. His tireless energy forced him to soon open John's Coffee Shop a few blocks away at 301 NW Broadway. The new owners of Gus's Café went out of business and Gus regained control of his old business and remodeled it. He gladly worked there until 1983 when he finally retired at the age of 90.
Gus was well loved in the community of Skid Road, which later became Old Town. Known as “Mayor of Burnside,” Gus was very generous to the Old Town community as well as the people he left in Greece. In Old Town, he habitually donated food for holiday meals for the homeless and always offered a free bowl of soup to anyone in need of a warm meal. Gus sent money back to Greece, paid for his family's education in Greece as well as America, and helped bring electricity, water, and medicine to his native home in Greece. Gus was instrumental in the building of the Greek Orthodox Church on Glisan Avenue and was a proud member of the Kenton Masonic Lodge. Gus was a well-loved individual that was proud to be an American. In return, America is honored to have someone as noble as Gus Apostol as a citizen.