1978 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Have enough endurance and determination to stay with it."
Anthony Athanas was born in Albania, where his father was a building mason, and the family lived in poverty. When Athanas was very young, the family immigrated to the United States, settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Athanas' father sold fruits and vegetables from a pushcart to support his family. Later, he was able to buy a horse, then a truck. In helping his father, Athanas learned how to sell and how to deal with customers. He also sold newspapers and shined shoes to pay for his own expenses.
At 14, Athanas left school to work in a restaurant, where his job was lighting the wood and coal fires for the chefs. Later, when the chefs arrived, he watched them and wrote down their recipes. Soon, he learned to cook and became very skilled. Throughout the Depression, he always had a job.
Athanas was 20 and working in a restaurant in New York when his father died. He returned to Massachusetts and supported his mother and younger siblings, paid off his father's debts, and saved to buy his own restaurant. In 1938, with $1,800, he bought a restaurant on auction. "It was just a little place, about 50 seats," he says. "I pretended there was a cook, but it was just me. I'd take the order, shout it into the kitchen, cook it, and bring it out." Nine years later he bought a second restaurant, and years later, his third.
A big gamble for Athanas was the restaurant he started on an abandoned pier, Anthony's Pier 4. He staked everything on the conviction that a waterfront seafood restaurant in a neglected part of town could be a success. He threw a party for all the city's cab drivers, and for years afterward the cabbies could be counted on to suggest Pier 4 to out-of-towners. When Athanas received his Horatio Alger Award in 1978, he was named one of America's most prominent and successful restaurateurs. Anthony's Pier 4 continues to thrive today and has won many awards for excellence. Today, Athanas' four sons run his five restaurants.
Although he never finished grammar school, Athanas was a popular lecturer at Harvard Business School, Cornell, and the University of New Hampshire. He once said, "I had no formal education to speak of, but life is an education. I'm still learning today."
His own experience in America convinced him that opportunity is available to those who are willing to sacrifice for it. "Determination and endurance are the keys," he once said. "You have to want to make it work. Not for an hour, a week, or a month, but all the time. The true definition of success is someone who never gives up."* Deceased