Born outside Tripolis in southern Greece during World War II, George Nasiakos had a tough start. Italy’s invasion attempt began five days before his birth. The subsequent German occupation lasted until he was 4, and years of civil war followed. His brothers and father relocated to Chicago in the 1960s, and Nasiakos joined in 1974. He returned home only once, as his mother was dying in 1990.
Nasiakos had a friend in Chicago whose brother owned restaurants in Birmingham. The brother, Aleck Choraitis, recruited Nasiakos to take over Gus’s Hot Dogs downtown, which another Greek immigrant had opened in 1947. Nasiakos had never cooked in a restaurant when he bought Gus’s in 1995, but he learned quickly. He worked 14-hour days and six-day weeks – closing only five days a year including Ascension Day – until his “retirement” on Mar. 31, 2017. Interviewed on April 21, 2017, Nasiakos scaled back to seven-hour days.
Nasiakos vividly contrasts life in rural Greece, the Greek neighborhoods of Chicago and downtown Birmingham. In retirement, he eventually plans to visit siblings in Chicago and spend his final days with family in Greece.