Christ Panos Foods was started by Christos Panos in 1970. Christo had immigrated to the United States in 1947 where his father Socrates had laid the foundation for a new beginning for his family in Chicago IL. After completing a year’s worth of English instruction, Christo began working fulltime at his father’s restaurant Lane BBQ. After working there for some 6 years, seeking to expand his skill sets, Christo moved on to other jobs in Chicago area hotels and restaurants. Then in 1959, with an entrepreneurial drive Christo partnered up with a friend to buy his own business, the Norwood Coffee Shop located on Northwest Highway; which he held with his partner until 1967. During this time, Christo married his wife Amalia and had already began a family with his two daughters, Pauline and Koula.
Upon parting ways with his partner in 1967, Christo acquired his own restaurant at the corner of Kimball Ave. and Peterson Ave., Mister C’s, which he worked up until the end of the lease in 1974. Driven to provide the best he could for his family, Christo took on a new start working for a local food distributor that serviced him, while he looked for a new restaurant. It was at this time, when his life took a direction he had not necessarily seen coming, that Christo stopped looking for a restaurant and focused his efforts on being a food distributor. Through the support of Dick Schuster, Christo was able to begin his own route selling butter and eggs to area restaurants using the family station-wagon; six days delivering food and church on Sunday. But it was not long until Christo had built up a solid reputation in the restaurant community and the station-wagon was replaced with a truck and a joint endeavor in a refrigerated space on Cicero Avenue with a family member was needed.
As the years went by business continued to grow. From sharing a warehouse on Cicero Avenue to renting their own space in the Fulton Market district, Christo bought his first warehouse in 1995 on 21st Street in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood. Seventeen years later, the family was able to grow their business further and currently reside in their newest 120,000 sq. ft. facility in Itasca, IL.
These are the beginnings of what has gotten Christ Panos Foods, Corp to over 75 employees and 24 routes and growing strong!!
Building the tenacity in an entrepreneur…
Born in 1929, Christos Panos, lived much of his childhood in Northern Epirus (present day southern Albania) living with his brother and mother cultivating the family fields in their home village. Back in 1911, Christo’s father, Socrates, had immigrated to the United State (Chicago, IL specifically) in an attempt to establish a new beginning for his family. All this changed when communist forces took a stronghold of this northern part of Greece’s border with Albania in the turbulent times the 1940’s were for people in the Balkans. The freedom and lifestyle that they enjoyed as citizens of Greece had changed.
After much torment and atrocities by the communists, Christ along with four other children of his village (ages 14 to 17), one night during the spring of 1947 (May), when local military people had taken camp away from the village, Christo and his companions fled into the mountain side to cross over into Greece to re-establish their freedom. So scared was Christo of his life and his mother’s and brother’s that a customary farewell or the slight change in demeanor between them in public would put them all at risk. So with much courage and a heavy heart, a young man left his brother and mother for the chance of freedom and the hope of providing the same to those he had left behind. Christo would only return to see his brother in 1989.
After fleeing into Greece, Christo made his way to the land of opportunity and found his father in Chicago, IL where he enrolled in school and worked at the his father’s snack-shop, LANE BBQ, located at the intersection of Addison and Western Ave. First arrived in America in New York City and then by train to Chicago. Filled with extreme joy, Chris was finally able to see his father gain in Chicago; his dream had come true.
Not able to finish his elementary education in Northern Epirus, Chris enrolled in school to learn English. After finishing a year of English courses, Chris started working at a snack-shop his father and uncle owned called LANE BBQ at the intersection of Western Avenue and Addison Ave in Chicago. After working there for some 6 years, Chris moved on to other jobs in local Chicago hotels that paid more, as a general helper in various areas of the hotels. Then, in 1959, Chris partnered up with a friend to buy his own business, the Norwood Coffee Shop on Northwest Hwy; which he held until 1967 at which point his partner bought out Chris’ share.
Shortly after marrying his wife Amalia in 1964, Chris purchased another restaurant and named in Mister C’s; in which he worked at up until the end of the lease in 1974. It was at this point that Chris took on a part time job that would change his future forever. He began working for a Chicago distributor of Butter and Eggs. After gaining experience in the foodservice distribution business, Chris stopped looking for a restaurant and decided to start doing his own deliveries. After working with family from a jointly owned warehouse and bakery on Cicero Avenue on the north side of Chicago, Chris made the move into his own warehouse facility. And so, Chris went from a 3,000 square foot facility into a 22,000 square foot until 1995, when Panos Foods moved to its current location at 817 W 21st Street, just south of the downtown Chicago area.