The community of Baltimore has lost friend John Paterakis on Sunday as he passed away from myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disorder at John Hopkins Hospital.
The 87-year-old self-made multimillionaire baker was known as a visionary risk-taker who lived a surprisingly modest life.
“You gotta remember, I’m just a little Greek baker that got lucky,” Paterakis commented earlier this year when he was inducted into The Baltimore Sun’s Business and Civic Hall of Fame.
And lucky he was, as he led the family bakery H&S to greater success than his father and uncle who established the bakery. Let’s take a look back at the amazing accomplishments of this pillar in the community of Baltimore.
From Humble Beginnings to the “Big Deal”
John Paterakis was born in Baltimore in 1929 after his parents immigrated to the United States from the Greek island of Chios, His father, Steve Paterakis, along with his uncle, Harry Tsakalos, established H&S Bakery (named after its owners) in the city and John inherited his father’s interest in the business in 1950.
It was soon after that when John decided to take a risk and take the bakery to another level when he made a deal with McDonald’s in 1965 to supply their buns. That deal lives on today as H&S Bakery currently supplies the fast-food chain with 2 million buns a day and the bakery has expanded to 23 states.
Community Involvement and Philanthropy
Paterakis is also known for developing the trendy Harbor East neighborhood where his development company H&S Properties created several high-end retail stores, restaurants, luxury condominiums and hotels.
He invested much interest and funding into the community as well as helping Greek businesses specifically.
There was a quiet and little-known side to Paterakis as he made many contributions to Baltimore’s Greek Orthodox churches as well as other community causes without wanting recognition.
“He didn’t have a big house, he didn’t have a fancy car, he didn’t go on extravagant trips, and he had the means to do that,” his son Bill Paterakis said to balitmoresun.com.
“Instead he sank everything he had into Harbor East. Not many people would do that and take that kind of risk on Baltimore…He was a risk-taker, he was fearless, he was a visionary. He wouldn’t look at why things wouldn’t work, he looked at how things could work,” he added.
Paterakis is also known in political circles as “the bread man” – not only because of his successful bakery, but due to his continuing support of the Democratic party and his political influence coming from his funding of candidates.
He is survived by his wife, four sons, two daughters, 19 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.