ST. PAUL, MN – The Greek owner of the Best Steak House in St. Paul described his friend, the late George Floyd, “He was a gentleman, a kind young man. Always happy and with a smile,” is how Evangelos (Mike) Hatzistamoulos, the Greek owner of the Best Steak House in St. Paul, describes his friend, George Floyd, who was murdered on May 25 in Minneapolis. The incident caused shock and anger in the area that led to protests which turned violent at times with many stores damaged, looted, and some burned.
Hatzistamoulos spoke to The National Herald about George Floyd, the demonstrations and vandalism over the last few days in Minneapolis, as well as the damage to his own restaurant.
Floyd had been a regular customer at Hatzistamoulos’ restaurant for the past six years and the two men became friends. “He came to the restaurant at least three times a week. We hung out, he was a very good guy, kind and always happy.”
When Hatzistamoulos learned what had happened, he could not believe it. “I was shaking, I was very upset, because I never expected something like that to happen. The police had already handcuffed him, just take him to the police station. Why did this terrible thing have to happen?”
Hatzistamoulos had only the best to say about Floyd, who was more than just a customer. “He was the man who would come first if I asked for help. If, for example, there was a commotion in the store and I needed him, he would run.”
The Greek expatriate remembers Floyd always going out to eat with a smile on his face. “George was the best guy. He was a gentleman. Always polite. He was always smiling. May it be better where he is, may he rest in peace.”
On Friday, the incidents that broke out in Minneapolis on the occasion of the brutal murder of Floyd by police officer Derek Chovin, reached Hadjistamoulos’ restaurant. Protesters smashed four large windows of the Best Steak House, which has been operating in the area for 35 years.
“They broke the windows in front of the store where I had big double windows. I wonder with what force they broke them. Fortunately, they did not come in to destroy the restaurant or cause more damage. The building is mine and I have apartments upstairs.”
Hatzistamoulos noted that 80% of his customers at the restaurant- which is the only Greek restaurant in the area- are African-American, and as he says, there are often quarrels.
“I have seen a lot of riots with police and African-Americans. The police do not want the blacks whom they characterize as all bad. There are good and bad people everywhere. Most of them are good people, but there is a great deal of racism here,” he said.
The situation is deplorable in the region and as the Greek expatriate says, the residents are scared. “It makes things difficult. The protests continue. People are outraged by everything that has been going on in recent days. I hope things calm down soon and nothing else bad happens.”
Hatzistamoulos immigrated with his family to the United States 50 years ago, when he was ten years old. He is originally from Kontakeika in Samos. He loves his island very much and as he says, whatever happens, every summer he closes his restaurant for a month to go to Greece. “In all the years I have been in America, not a single summer has passed that I haven’t gone to Samos. I close the store every year for a month and go with my wife and daughter.”