Young John Catsimatidis had just graduated from Brooklyn Polytechnic and was contemplating a summer of TV watching on the couch before he started NYU engineering school when his mother bustled him out of the apartment to take a summer supermarket job with her friend Tony on Broadway and 137th Street.
John proudly offers that they were poor. His Greek father worked very hard as a busboy in a Greek restaurant and he needed the ten-to-twenty-bucks-a-week supermarket job to buy gas to drive down to NYU and back.
Later, Tony, who had become like a brother to John, said, “I can’t stand working for my uncle another hour. Here, you take my half for $10,000 and you can pay me when you earn it out of the business—yah gotta do it.” And John Catsimitidis owned half of a supermarket as he entered his twenties.
“That’s how I really got started and within three or four years I was up to ten stores and I was making almost a million dollars a year.”
“I almost lost a few locations when the leases were up. I realized that unless you own the property you don’t own the business so I started buying real estate and that real estate I bought ended up increasing in value by ten times in a few years. And that’s how I made my first hundred million. The retail business inspired [me] going into the real estate business; one protected the other.”
From the retail and real estate business he opened an executive air service (he is a pilot) and an oil refinery. “The key to success is diversification.”