The Cypriot migration to Annapolis came in 2 waves. Cyprus was part of the British Empire under military occupation from 1914 to 1925 and a Crown colony from 1935 to 1960. Cyprus became an independent nation in 1960.
The first immigrants from Cyprus came to America in the 1930’s when Cyprus was a Crown colony of the British Empire.
The first group of immigrants from Cyprus were mostly teenagers, who falsely said they were 18, in order to travel to London, England. These young boys arrived in the 1920’s and, with limited English, worked as dishwashers, bus boys, waiters and eventually cooks. Some of them worked at the finest restaurants in London including the Savoy. In 1925, Savvas and Nick Hadjipanteli (Pantelides) arrived in London and stayed with their cousin Nick Modinos who had arrived earlier. John Muscovous (Kallis) and his first cousin, Zacharia Petros had also arrived earlier.
Later, fellow Cypriots and cousins to Savvas and Nick Pantelides, Paul Nicholas, Achilles Pantelas (fondly known as Uncle Benny) and Costa Zacharoudis arrived. These teenagers knew each other through family and being from same general Yialousa area of Cyprus. Many of them roomed together in small apartments with some taking turns sleeping while the others were at work. The story was that John Kallis always wore a heavy coat all year with many pockets so he could bring food home from the restaurant to feed the Cypriots boys. The hours were long and hard and the wages were small but these immigrants survived.
Those who arrived in the 1920’s knew of a place called “The Beautiful Cyprus Restaurant”, located in the Soho district of London and owned by a person from Yialousa, Cyprus: John Piera. Who was Mike Piera’s uncle, and known as Lillitos.
Lillitos had emigrated from Cyprus in the early 1920’s and his restaurant served as a meeting place for the Yialousides (people from Yialousa and surrounding area). The restaurant served as a temporary home for these new arrivals who would sleep on the tables after closing each night. Lillitos and his family showed great kindness to these young boys who were homesick and needed a hand.
These friendships among that first wave of Cypriots grew and strengthened when they eventually joined each other in Annapolis during the 1930’s and 1940’s. It was not a direct route, as some landed in New York, Pennsylvania Baltimore and other places. Costa Zacharoudis settled in Buffalo, New York, but eventually moved to Phoenix, Arizona.
Side Story: 40 years later, Savvas Pantelides would tell Annapolitan Mike Panos, who was stationed in the Air Force at Phoenix, to go and see his cousin Costa and her wife Toni. It was at Costa Zacharoudis’ home that Mike Panos was introduced and eventually married Evelyn Panos.
Savvas and his brother Nick Pantelides operated the Royal Restaurant, 23 West St., and Achilles Pantelas became a chef there. Paul and Helen Nicholas stayed with Sam and Margie Pantelides at their house on 18 Randall Street outside of Gate 1 of the United States Naval Academy. Eventually Paul and his wife opened up a small sandwich shop on West St: Paul’s, (now the famous Paul’s Homewood Café) operated by his son, Chris Nicholas and daughters Anna and Florence.
Also, Savvas’s sister, Maretsu with her husband John, came in 1951 to establish the Royal Valet, shoe repair, alterations and dry cleaning, right next to the Royal Restaurant. Savvas also helped his niece Irene Panayi and her husband Mike when they arrived from England. Irene became an expert seamstress at the Naval Academy and Mike (affectionately known as Softee) worked at Mike’s Crab House.
As was done for him, John Kyriacou sponsored his sister, Maroula and her husband, Panayoti Papaleonti and their 5 children, Sotos and Maroulla Christoforou and their 3 children, Irene and Neophetos Kacoyianni, and Nick Kacoyianni, who now lives in Canada. Neophetos would sponsor his wife Kyriacoula’s brother, Kyriacou Stylianou, who would become the main cook at Sotos and Maroulla’s restaurant, Chris’s Charcoal Pit, for many years.
Many of these Cypriots had been farmers and John and Maretsu would raise pigeons, rabbits and chickens in their backyard and would tell neighbors they were pets. Maroulla and Panayi were famous for making Halloumi cheese by going to farmers and getting goat’s milk and selling it in large glass jars. John and fellow Cypriot, Paul Sophocles, who married Maretsu’s niece, Irene, bought a boat and named it Miss Cyprus. They caught many crabs in the crab pots on Spa Creek and would host crab feasts for fellow Cypriots.
The Cypriot families from Annapolis and Baltimore would often get together and have picnics. A favorite gathering place was Oak Grove Beach in Annapolis (owned by Nick Pantelides and John Kallis), Mago Vista Beach and Sandy Point State Park. You could hear the Cypriot music playing and the Cypriots preparing lamb and pork souvlaki and special Cypriot pastries, like Melopetes, which were thin dough pan fried and soaked in honey.
Mike and Katena Piera’s 4 sons, Athos, Tony, John and Pete, currently operate Mike’s Crab House in Riva and Mike’s Crab House North in Pasadena, and are an institution in Anne Arundel County.
Mike and Katena Piera went on to sponsor over 60 families from Cyprus to Annapolis. Thanks again to the example set by Savvas and Margie Pantelides, Mike and Katena opened their home and provided help to relatives and friends. They had started by helping Mike’s sister, Antigone, and her husband Louis in 1961. Louie, who operated Capital Upholstery was in great demand for his skill and the fact that he had worked in Buckingham Palace. Mike then helped his sister, Anna and her husband, John, move from London in 1963 and they worked at Mike’s Crab House.
In 1964, Mike would borrow a beer truck to drive down to Portsmouth, Virginia to help George and Angela Nikiforou move to Annapolis. George Nikiforou would become proprietor of George’s Riva Barber Shop in a building that Mike owned right across the street from the restaurant. Years later George would relocate the barbershop to Riva Road where fellow Cypriots Savvi Yiannoulou and Neophetos Kacoyianni would join him. Neophetos would later become a builder.
In 1967, Mike and Katena Piera, would bring Katena’s father, John, from Cyprus followed by his wife, Vavarra (Barbara), as well as Katena’s sister, Maria and her brother George Yiannoulou. Maria would marry Hambi Atteshis who operated a custom tailor shop right across from City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street. In 1970, they would bring Katena’s brother, Savvas (Savvi) his wife Helen, (Ellou) and their sons, Mario and Nick. They would have a third son, Andrew after moving to Annapolis.
Savvi would work at George’s Barber Shop for many years before he and his sons opened their own business on Forest Drive. Son Mario Yiannoulou would open a separate hair salon for both men and women in Edgewater. There would be other Cypriots, such as Neophetos Kacoyianni and his sister, Irene, who would come to Annapolis with hair styling experience. Later, Irene who would later marry Paul Sophocles from Baltimore and would open her own shop on West Street.
As mentioned, John and Maria Kyriacou would sponsor Sotos and Maroulla Christoforou and they would live in his basement on Archwood Avenue until they got established.
Savvas Pantelides was good friends with the Lowman family, especially Rookie, who owned Rookie’s meat market at the Annapolis City Dock. Sam was able to get Sotos a job there by telling Rookie, after they had had several drinks together, that he did not have to pay Sotos, but would have to provide food for his wife Maroulla and 3 children, Lola, Athena and John.
Maroulla and Sotos would go on to open Chris’s Charcoal Pit at 1946 West St. which would become like the other Cypriot run restaurants: an institution in Annapolis serving all types of foods.
Eventually, other Cypriots would arrive like Louie Keshes who married Helen Nicholas’s sister Demetra who had a very popular tailor shop until her death. Louie was a top salesman at Sealtest Ice Cream for many years. Later, Louie’s brother Dimitri would arrive and open a shoe shop on Main Street. Zacharia and Lambrou Kafouri arrived with Lambrou working at the Naval Academy and Zacharia in construction.
Other Cypriots arrived like Jack and Eleni Kleanthous. Jack is a big leader in the Washington, Baltimore Northern Virginia Cypriot community. Jack opened Jack’s Foreign Car and Repair on West Street some 40 years ago and it is still in operation. Jack’s wife opened a successful tailor shop and is also still going strong. Jack continues to lobby Washington to restore the lands taken from Cyprus by Turkey in the illegal invasion on July 20, 1974. Cyprus remains today a divided island.
After the illegal invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, the eastern third of the island was occupied which included Yialousa and many Cypriots were forced to flee. Savvas Panteides sponsored his brother Aristides’s 3 children, John, Nick and Savvas Hadjipanteli to come to Annapolis as they had lost everything in the invasion. John and Nick became successful in the financial field and Savvas achieved a PhD before his untimely death. All 3 boys married and have families.
A part of the Murray Hill area, close to the first Greek Church on Constitution Ave., essentially became Little Yialousa. Numerous Cypriot families were located within walking distance of each other. Savvas and Margie Pantelides, John and Maria Kyriacou, George and Angie Nikiforou, Sotos and Maroulla Christoforou, Neophetos and Kyriacoula Kacoyianni and her sister Eleni with husband Aristides Pelecanos and her mother and father, Eleni and Styli, Andre and Georgeann Pantelides, Nick and Dolly Pantelides and Annie and Ted Samaras were all located in what was indeed a Cypriot village where each family helped one another. These families had many children who all grew up together and knew their Cypriot heritage.
The other Cypriot enclave was located about a mile away off of West Street near the Germantown school. The Piera, Keshes, Nicholas, Atteshis, Kafouri, Papaleonti, Christodolou, Louizou and Sophocles families anchored that area.
The amazing fact is that these Cypriot families were very close geographically to each other in Annapolis. This made the Cypriot community very close knit and many happy parties and name days were celebrated with good food and dancing.
Like many of the Greek families who immigrated to Annapolis, the Cypriots were mostly in business for themselves and working hard to give their children the American Dream.
Like the other Cypriots, Maroulla and Sotos were very devoted to the Church and took a major role in both fundraising and helping at the annual Greek Festivals. At several Festivals, Sotos would bring many of his employees to help run the Gyro and Souvlaki area. John Kyriacou and Kyriacou Stylianou were always at Soto’s side helping him and Jack Kleanthous was in charge of roasting the lambs on a spit. The Cypriot women were excellent bakers and made trays of Cypriot pastries for these festivals.
Let’s continue with this sense of obligation that the Cypriot’s exhibited in helping the church. In the early years, fellow Cypriots John Kallis and Savvas Pantelides used some interesting techniques to raise money for the first church.
One restaurant owner refused to give money to the building fund, so John Kallis lifted the owner’s cash register off of the counter over his head and threatened to throw it on the floor unless he gave cash to Savvas, at which point the owner agreed to make a donation. This pair would simply not take “no” for an answer.
George and Chloe Hadjis were always coming up with some fundraising idea to make money for the church, such as Super Bowl parties at the church. George was the first to host church festivals in Glen Burnie to reach the Orthodox community in the north county. George also played a key role on the church board in building the new church on Riva Rd.
Later Cypriots George Nikiforou, Savvi Yianoula and Vlaho Chris Samaras would take over the Church’s annual Cadillac drawing and George and Savvi are still doing it some 50 years later in their seventies and eighties.
The children of these Cypriot immigrants were heavily involved in building the current church complex at 2747 Riva Rd. See the article on this website, → “Our New Home – “The Miracle on Riva Road”.
Together with the Greek families who immigrated to Annapolis, the Cypriot community has played an important role in the development of our church and Annapolis Greek-Cypriot community.
John S. Pantelides