By Gordon Hughes
Immigration is such a hot topic today. I guess this is an issue that has always faced us as a nation going back to the Know Nothings of the 1830’s, 40’s and 50’s. There have been those that see immigrants as a threat to our country, and those that see them as one of the mainstays of our nation.
I fall into the latter category; so unless you are a Native American—and those guys traveled over the tundra from Asia to settle here; even they are immigrants—we are all immigrants.
Anyway, as most of you who read my column know, I start my day at Panino Mucho Gusto Cafe with a cup of java . What you don’t know is that when I’m not in the Theater District working I’m here in the West Village for lunch at The Bus Stop Cafe. I avoid the chain stores, restaurants, etc. and support locally owned businesses of West Village natives. As a resident of the West Village I like to spend both time and money at these establishments.
So the other day I was delighted to meet one of the most charming business owners in the West Village. Georgia Danalis, owner of The Bus Stop Cafe.
If there were such a thing as a Greek leprechaun, Georgia would be the one. Much like my pal Claude Noelle whom I wrote about last month and is from France, Georgia is also an immigrant who moved to New York from Greece in 1975 after graduating from high school on the small Greek Island of Kefalonia just south of Corfu. Wonder if she knew the Durrell’s of Corfu? Once she arrived she got a job working as a translator for the Greek Counsel translating documents from Greek to English and attended New York City College. There she received her degree in engineering followed by a job at IBM, I should mention one of the first women to do so. Georgia and her husband both worked there. It just so happened that Georgia’s two brothers owned a famous cafe on Bleecker Street, Manatus. When I first moved to the Village I was a regular there but really did not know the owners. In January of 1995 Georgia’s brothers Gus and John first opened the Bus Stop Café, where the M 11 bus stops on a regular basis. Georgia ook over ownership in April of 1995. Georgia says, “John my brother designed the Cafe and really made it what it is to this day”
36 years later the Bus Stop Cafe is a West Village institution. It has an amazing clientele of regulars most of whom live in the Village. But, there are a number of tourists from all over the world who drop in for a wonderful meal. She loves telling the story that the first week she opened Al Pacino had lunch there by himself, a Caesar Salad.
“He was a big tipper” she confided in me. Georgia told me “though customers have changed over the years it is really the locals that have made the Cafe thrive. Without the locals we never would have made it. We love them all.” I think that includes me too.
So, another American immigrant success story; part of an ongoing American story and one that will continue to make America strong, interesting, dynamic, diverse and unique.
I reflect about this as I sit at Panino Mucho Gusto Cafe, the Bus Stop Cafe or as I walk by La Fanion. The courage of these individuals strengthens the fabric of America.