Nearly three decades ago, Angelo Trifos opened the landmark Shandon restaurant Devine Foods.
He is a first-generation immigrant from the Greek island of Corfu who moved with his parents and three brothers to Nova Scotia, Canada, when he was 19. Twenty-eight years later, he moved to Columbia after marrying his second wife, Georgia, who lived here, and opened the restaurant.
Trifos said he will close the restaurant in November because — at “78 and a half” — he has grown too old to continue to work.
“Physically, I can’t do it,” he said. “It makes me sad because of the loyalty of the customers and the loyalty of the staff.”
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In Canada, Trifos said he worked in fine restaurants making $20 a week even though he spoke no English. “I couldn’t even say ‘Good morning,’” he said, his English still heavily broken. “I am the American dream.”
Angelo and Georgia opened Devine Foods in March 1988, two years after Angelo moved to Columbia. Devine Foods is known for its inexpensive Greek food served in a cafe-like setting that is more patio than dining room.
The restaurant, in its present location at 2702 Devine St., was supposed to be carry-out only. That is the reason for the narrow dining room and tables on an enclosed L-shaped patio.
Trifos says: “This is the only restaurant in Columbia that you have to walk through the kitchen to go to the bathroom.”
He said his only heir, Spiros, a son by his first wife, lives in Greece and has no interest in coming to America. He tried to find a buyer but got no takers. The couple has sold the building, and there are plans to put a women’s clothing shop into the space, he said.
Trifos said he gave his employees 2 1/2 months notice so they could find new work. One of those employees is cook Floyd Patterson. Patterson’s nickname is “Cheese.” Trifos calls him “Chi-Chi.”
“He never could get it right,” Patterson said.
The news of the closing came as a shock to longtime customers. “Oh my,” said Perry Lancaster, who has eaten every Friday night at Devine Foods since his Brittons clothing store moved to Devine Street 21 years ago. “It’s been a great, great family-owned restaurant. I’m sure it will be missed.”