By Katie Eubanks
Primos celebrates 90 years
Ninety years ago, after working at a small New Orleans bakery and later in Gulfport, Angelo “Pop” Primos, a Greek immigrant, opened his first restaurant in Jackson.
Pop loved America, loved cooking and loved serving others. Over the past nine decades, Primos Café has become a gathering place for friends and family, which is exactly what Pop had in mind. Pop was devoted to his own family — and thus made sure they always had a place to work at his restaurants! He passed on a strong work ethic to his children and grandchildren, and grandson Don Primos runs the business now.
Today, generations of Mississippians have marked moments of their lives at Primos restaurants past and present, and the name Primos has become synonymous with good food and great memories.
Here is a timeline of events from Primos’ long, ongoing history in metro Jackson.
- Pop opens Primos Bake Shop at 236 E. Capitol Street.
- That same year, “Mom” (Pop’s wife Mildred) moves to Jackson with children.
- Pop bakes at night and Mom helps sell bread and pastries during the day. Business is slow, so Pop adds coffee and drinks to the menu.
- Pop goes to Westbrook Manufacturing, a company that makes restaurant equipment, and works a deal to buy some furnishings that Westbrook Co. reclaimed from a place in McComb. When asked how much money he has, Pop replies, “$100.” Alton Westbrook says that is enough for the down payment.
- Pop transitions Primos Bake Shop into a full-service restaurant called Primos Café and Bake Shop.
- Primos Café and Bake Shop is becoming successful. He moves locations to 244 E. Capitol St., next to First National Bank (now Trustmark). He also installs air conditioning. Primos is believed to be the first Mississippi restaurant to have that amenity.
- A dreamer, Pop likes to travel to different cities to get new ideas. At the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, he discovers an automatic door, which he soon installs at 244 E. Capitol. He also installs elevated sitting booths, which he sees in his travels. He likes round sitting booths too and has some made and installed.
- He also designs his kitchen so customers can see the cooks preparing dishes. He always has a big display of his bakery items next to the cash register.
- Pop opens “#2” at 1016 N. State Street (across from Baptist Hospital).
- The bank and other businessmen say Pop is making a mistake in opening there, but Pop sees the doctors from downtown moving out near the hospital and he believes there will be more growth in the area.
- Also in 1948, Pop opens Primos Glass Kitchen (corner of College and State streets) next to First Baptist Jackson. It’s called The Glass Kitchen because of the glass partition between the kitchen and the dining room area.
- Pop builds a two-story building next to The Glass Kitchen, moves the restaurant there and calls it Primos #3. (This building has since been torn down and the First Baptist gym now sits in its place.)
- Also in 1955, Pop buys Burton’s restaurant, next to the Heidelberg Hotel on W. Capitol Street, and calls it Primos #4.
- Pop’s driving force is to keep his family around him and provide work for them. Every time one of his sons finishes school, Pop builds another restaurant and puts him to work.
- Pop opens Primos Northgate Restaurant at 4330 N. State Street. It is a large restaurant with a courtyard and deli.
- A few years later, he builds out a convention center at Primos Northgate, with banquet rooms for rent. The first established rooms are the Mississippi Room (elegant, with crystal chandeliers,) the Driftwood Room (decorated in a Western motif) and the Guard Room (decorated with an old English design, a style influenced by the Guard at the Royal Palace in London).
- There is also a Center Court area, a reception area for all the dining rooms; it has a raised flowerbed and a fountain with underwater lights synchronized with music.
- At this point, Pop has four restaurants thriving, nearly five. Primos #4 closes as Primos Northgate opens.
- In December, Primos Northgate closes.
- In January, Primos Café and Bake Shop opens at 2323 Lakeland Drive in Flowood with a new fast-casual concept offering a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu with a takeaway area for grab-n-go items and takeout orders.
- In January, Primos Café and Bake Shop opens a second location at 515 Lake Harbour Drive in Ridgeland.
- In February, Primos Café and Bake Shop opens a third location at 212 Baptist Drive in Madison.
- Primos celebrates 90 years!
Celebrate 90 years with Primos on April 2-4.
Visit primoscafe.com/90years for event details.