Astoria Landmark Lefkos Pirgos Closes

ASTORIA, N.Y. –  “First I want to say a great big ‘thank you’ to the community for their support through the years.” That was the first thing Julie Pantazis said after TNH learned the Astoria Landmark closed its doors on June 22.

Julie and her husband Petros Pantazis can’t thank the community enough, but they have also given more than 100 percent of themselves, beyond the hours deep into the night for many years of 365 work days and their creations have literally been the icing on the cake of many of its most notable events.

“Whenever we have been asked to part a part of something, we were there.” And the stars and dignitaries of international Hellenism has sought them out in Northeast Queens.

Constantine, the former king of Greece, many Greek and American officials, and other celebrities have passed through the doors of Lefkos Pirgos and engaged in conversations with the locals.

In Thessaloniki, Lefkos Pirgos is a monument – in Astoria it is an institution.

Holidays for Julie and Petros were not quite what they are for everyone else, but they will miss the light-filled sweet shop – zacharoplastion – in the heart of Astoria’s Ditmars district, and the people who are their friends as much as they are loyal customers.

She is trying to take it philosophically, not an easy thing when she and those who have been stopping by are fighting back tears – not always successfully.

“I had no idea people loved Lefkos Pirgos so much, but everything has a beginning and an end,” she told The National Herald.

And surely the people who will miss them will say they long-ago earned their time to relax.

“We have gotten older, and we want to rest a little – and then we will think about it. We will open a new place somewhere… perhaps after a few months…so we can see our friends again,” she said.

And she assures everyone that “in our hearts and minds will always be with them, and whatever they need, we will be here.” The telephone will stay connected.

It was a long journey for the couple, and not always a sweet one. It was filled with struggle and hard work, and longing for their homeland, but they succeeded in turning the corner of 23rd Avenue and 31st Street into a piece of Greece that has warmed the hearts of many expatriates and introduced its traditions to its Astoria neighbors.

Julie was born and raised in Pireaus. Her father’s roots are in Ios of the Cyclades and her mother is from Pirgos, Elias.

In Greece she married Petros, a soccer player who played for renowned coach Akis Panagoulias. In New York Pantazis played for the highly successful “Greek-American” soccer club.

“Panagoulias loved him and we were good friends, she said. When he was coaching the Greek National team in 1994 during its visit to New York, they came to the store.”

Petros’ mother is from Chios and his father was a refugee from Asia Minor.

But no one in their family was a confectioner.

Fate brought them to Lefkos Pirgos, which was established around 1975 and was purchased by the Julie and Petros from the original owners. Business acumen and family commercial experience enabled them to master the business.

They arrived by airplane in 1969 and first established a taxi company, but when the opportunity to buy Lefkos Pirgos presented itself, they jumped on it. At the time, the owner of the building was their good friend Andrew Karagiannis, and they bought the store in 1980 from Stamatis Bililis and Alekos Dimitriou.

The couple immediately began to put their stamp on the establishment with the first of numerous renovations that turned it into a home of sorts for many Astorians who enjoyed coffee and sweets as they followed the shows and news from the patrida on the large-screen TVs.

She is not sure when they will visit Greece. She loves her house in the Athens suburb of Paleo Faliro and she also goes to the nearby island of Aegina. When she was asked about Siphnos, which is known for its cooking and sweets, Julie said she likes it very much.

She reiterated that the rest is welcome – and necessary – and that the only thing they will miss is the friends they looked forward to seeing every night.

After offering some delicious sweets, she said “Thank you to The National Herald and all the community media who love Lefkos Pirgos.”

She became emotional.  “I will miss Lefkos Pirgos. I love it very much. It was like a child to us.”

And like a family to many. Its chief confectioner was with them for 22 years; his colleague, 22. Other employees have been there for 10 and 13 years and one woman was crying when she said she will not seek a new job – she will wait for the new store to open.

As will the rest of Astoria and beyond.










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