RETURNING TO HIS BIRMINGHAM ROOTS
Immigrant. Inventor. Gyros King. Investor. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist.
Born in Piraeus, Greece, Chris P. Tomaras came to the United States in 1958. His pursuit of the American Dream brought him to Birmingham, AL. Within three years, the young and ambitious Tomaras owned, leased and operated a sandwich shop, a lounge, a popular drive-in and two pizza stores. This experience proved vital when he and his wife Nancy moved to Chicago in 1965 to pursue other business opportunities.
Continuing in the food industry, the turning point came when Tomaras designed and patented a gyros broiler. The ‘Kronomatic’ broiler had an enormous impact and filled the growing demand from restaurants around the country. This led Tomaras to build a meat processing plant that produced ready-made gyros meat for sale to restaurants across the country. Thus, the Gyros was introduced to the U.S and the Kronos Foods empire was born.
Known as the Gyros King, Tomaras built Kronos Foods into the largest Greek foods manufacturer in the United States. After 20 years of successful ownership, he sold the company to a venture capital firm, which continues its successful operation to date.
Ever prudent and visionary, this paved the way for Tomaras Investments, Ltd., a private investment firm with holdings in real estate and several operating companies in the United States and abroad.
As a philanthropist, Tomaras has made significant contributions to several Greek institutions that support Greek education and offer assistance and services to various Greek communities. In 2008 he donated $1,000,000 to the St. Iakovos Camp and Retreat Center of the Metropolis of Chicago.
Yet, by many standards his most remarkable and selfless role is serving as the founder of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation (PHSF), a non-profit foundation that offers scholarships totaling $250,000 annually at $10,000 each to Greek American students. Tomaras’ inability to fund his own education upon arriving in America set the background for his appreciation of education. Tomaras’ education advancement efforts are increasing opportunities for young Greek Americans, empowering them today to become engaged citizens and leaders of tomorrow.
PHSF’s creed is parallel to Tomaras’ personal beliefs and principles on success like the importance of “filotimo” a sense of honor, integrity and character while simultaneously being humble and considerate. Equally significant is his sense of responsibility and commitment to civic duty. To that end and by his service to the community, Tomaras has been named “Distinguished Geek American” and recognized with the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor”. He is an Archon of the Order of St. Andrews of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and a member of Leadership 100. He is also a member of the Anatolia College Board of Trustees and a founding member of the American Foundation of Hellenic Studies at Georgia State University. In 2003 he became honorary citizen of Panama City, Panama and in 2004, the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois named him “Hellene of the Year”. In 2005 he was appointed a member of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO. IN 2010, he received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from the Hellenic College-Holy Cross in Boston, MA.
The remarkable life of Chris P. Tomaras, an accomplished immigrant – turned - entrepreneur extraordinaire continues with another chapter by returning to his American roots where he first began, in Birmingham, AL.
His love for the city, where he still maintains a home and treasures many dear friends, is where the concept for Sweet Tea Restaurant was created.
“In all your actions with your people, with your customers and in all your dealings with third parties, speak with truth and sincerity, and always, always remember that the integrity of your character is your most important asset.”
Chris P. Tomaras