a people’s man
By Justine Frangouli-Argyris
What can be written about John A. Catsimatidis, the boy from the small Aegean island of Nissyros in the Dodecanese, that hasn’t been penned already? Arriving in New York at the tender age of six months, folded in his Mother Despina’s arms alongside his Father, Andreas, in search of a better tomorrow, John is the embodiment of the ‘American dream.’
What can be said about the entrepreneur who began as an assistant in his friend’s uncle’s grocery store in Harlem that hasn’t been heard many a time? For, from those early days, John has gone on to conquer the business world and is presently ranked as the 132nd richest man in the United States, according to Forbes.
This past January, his story became national in scope as John declared his intention to run for the Mayoralty of New York City, setting his sights on the Republican nomination at this month’s primaries and, eventually, hoping to capture Gracie Manor, on November 5th.
John Catsimatidis was born on the Greek island of Nissyros in 1948 and emigrated with his family to New York City when he was six months old. He spent the past forty years of his life building his company from a single grocery store into a conglomerate with vast holdings in real estate, energy and aviation. He still retains ownership of Manhattan’s largest supermarket chain, Red Apple Stores, but this represents only a tiny slice of his empire that has been estimated at $3 billion according to Forbes, although, as John claims, “it is actually between $3 and $5 billion.” Before annoucing his candidacy for Mayor, Catsimatidis denounced the poor quality of the declared and presumed candidates and stated that “he was willing to spend whatever it takes to win City Hall.”
John may be reputed as being “tough” but those who know him closely describe him as a “man of the people.” True, given his role as businessman, investor and dealmaker, he is renowned for being a hard-nosed negotiatior but he prefers to describe himself as a devoted father and a passionate citizen of his beloved New York.
To know John personally is to know a man who has raised his children “hands on,” rising at dawn to prepare breakfast and to share in their most serious conversations at the morning table with his charming wife, Margo. To have lived close to the Catsimatidis family is to know that, even today, with the children having become young adults, they cotinue to be showered with love and attention. Vacations are still planned in unison and the family, although great American patriots, continues to honor the culture and land of their origin, the distant Nissyros, as one.
To walk with John in Manhattan is to realize that he is intricately familiar with every building, every sidewalk and every stone in town. To travel with him by car, to the Bronx or over the bridges to Brooklyn or Queen’s, is to hear him describe how he hopes to reshape the city, revive the New York World’s Fair and make the metropolis “the capital of the world.”
John Catsimatidis is not an accidental successful entrepreneur. Originating from an important family in Istanbul, Turkey, where his grandfather was chancellor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, his mother, Despina Emmanouillidis, was educated in French and graduated from the renowned School of Rhodes. It was she who shaped him with kindness and devotion and through her deep knowledge resulting from her classic education. His intimate beginnings are well known to me as I have authored the fictional biography of his mother, For the Love of Others.
In a few days, John hopes to obtain the Republican nomination for Mayor of New York and, should he succeed, it is my belief that his persuasion and gentle demeanor will lead him to City Hall. Once there, John is adamant that municipal policies will take their clue from the everyday citizen, not from individual interest groups. He will bring along his patriotism, his cosmopolitainism and his management skills as well as his unique ability to touch people’s hearts.
In my opinion, with John at the helm, New York will have a true people’s mayor who will make it the shining light of all the world’s great cities!