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Culture

Greek-American Olive Oil Importer Jimmy Pappas Talks to TNH

December 30, 2017
Demetris Tsakas

TUPELO, MS – Greek immigrant businessman Jimmy Pappas used to give away extra virgin olive oil from the olive trees in his hometown of Metamorfosi, Laconia as a gift to his friends and colleagues, noting the health benefits and healing properties of the olive oil. He decided recently to produce his own brand of extra virgin olive oil and import it for the U.S. market, calling it My Greek Orchard.

The local newspaper in Tupelo, the Daily Journal wrote about Mr. Pappas in an article entitled, My Greek Orchard: Longtime Tupelo Businessman Jimmy Pappas Begins Importing Olive Oil. The National Herald spoke with Pappas about his new business venture. He told TNH that two weeks ago he received the first batches of My Greek Orchard olive oil in 500 ml and 750 ml packages. They introduced it to local grocery stores and it has already become a top-selling brand.

Pappas added that they have already begun talks with major food distributors who supply restaurants across the country and they are considering importing olive oil in larger packages.

Asked about olive oil, Pappas said it was produced from the olive groves of his own hometown, Metamorfosi near Monemvasia.

“Our olives are renowned and produce high quality extra virgin olive oil. Each village has its own oil mill and the olive oil is taken to the facilities of the Consortium of Agricultural Cooperatives of Epidaurus, Limiras, Laconia. These are state-of-the-art facilities with controlled air conditioning in which standardization takes place. Olive oil needs grooming, it needs love and soul. It can stand neither the low nor the high temperatures,” said Pappas.

Asked when the efforts started, he said that they began one year ago, because the name of olive oil had to be trademarked.

Nikos Charamis, sales director of the Consortium of Agricultural Cooperatives Epidaurus Limiras Laconias (Koinopraxias Agrotikon Synetairismon Epidavrou Limiras Lakonias- KASELL) and his nephew Christos Zervakos, who created the logo and the label of olive oil, played important roles in the business venture.

“It was a real feat, because things in the homeland are not easy. I went with my partner Sam Salloway on the spot and talked with producers and the leadership of KASELL because we had to be sure from the beginning that we would have the required quantities and most importantly the consistency in the quality of the product,” said Pappas expressing gratitude to the Greek businessman Giorgos Sarris.

Mr. Sarris deals with imports of Greek products and has given them the opportunity to overcome the initial obstacles that arise at the start of a business.

Jimmy Pappas was born and raised in Metamorfosi of Laconia and came to America in December 1959 at the invitation of his uncle – his mother’s brother, Paul Apostolakis.

His name was Demetrios Papadakis and like many other Greek immigrants he shortened his surname to make it easier for Americans to pronounce. However, he told TNH, when he and his wife, Teresa, had a son she told him that Demetri was better than Jimmy.

Pappas was just 17 when he came to America and worked in restaurants. In a short time, he and his uncle opened their first restaurant. After the restaurants, he went into the hotel business, namely the Ramada Inn and Clarion Hotel in Tupelo.

Tupelo, as he mentioned, was the birthplace of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, and both his hotels featured an “Elvis Presley Suite.”

“There are more than 65,000 tourists a year who visit Tupelo and the birthplace of the legendary singer,” said Pappas. Asked about his hotels, he said he had sold them and now only maintains The Summit Center, a banquet hall and conference center.

A year ago, his son opened his own coffee shop which, he said, is doing very well.

Pappas and his wife Teresa have two children, Katerina and Demetri.

Katerina is 30 years old, a pharmacist, married to Jackson Decatur Stewart, who is a lawyer. Demetri is a graduate of Mississippi State University and is engaged to Alden Maxcy.

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