The owner of the restaurant Chip’s Family, George Chatzopoulos, dies “peacefully” in the arms of his sister

ORANGE – Beloved owner of Chip’s Family Restaurant, known as much for his philanthropy as his pancake recipes, passed away “peacefully” on Monday in the arms of his sister and business partner Dina Bajko after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

“Last night he gave me a present. He passed very peacefully in my arms, ”said Bajko, whose brother was in palliative care at his home. “I can’t explain it, but it was beautiful. He gave me strength and continues to do so.

George “Georgie” Chatzopoulos, who raised the original chip from Orange to four other communities – Fairfield, Wethersfield, Southbury and Southington – was 55.

He died two hours after his brother and niece arrived from Greece, and Bajko thinks he has been waiting for them.

Bunting was draped around Chip’s bright yellow Family Restaurant sign on Tuesday at the popular Orange coffee shop, 321 Boston Post Road, where it all began.

Bajko said his brother has fought brain cancer “with everything he has” and has remained positive for the past year. He underwent surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy.

“He fought back and he was so strong. George was the strongest person I know, ”she said.

Chatzopoulos, whose friends say he lived the American Dream, came here from Greece with nothing in 1988, worked tirelessly in a restaurant in West Haven, saved money and bought the already existing Chip’s in 2003, bringing his younger sister Bajko as a partner. It later expanded to open four more Chip’s restaurants.

The news of his death on Tuesday left many in the community destitute, as he was not only a shrewd businessman, but a philanthropist with a larger than life personality who organized countless “pancakes for the dinner “and other fundraisers over the years in the restaurant, in addition to donating pancake batter, syrup, butter and coffee, and even loaning equipment for community fundraisers and religious.

A local trader who did not want to be identified said he saw Chatzopoulos handing a $ 100 bill to someone asking for a quarter.

Reverend Peter Orfanakos, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Barbara, said Chatzopoulos was a loyal member and described his friend as a “kind, generous, caring and sociable man who worked tirelessly to try to get positively impacting the people of our city and our state.

“He had a big heart and always looking for ways to share the gifts with which God blessed him,” said Orfanakos. “Over the years, he has supported many ministries of our parish, including in 2011 when we worked together to collect $ 10 000 to help send a Special Olympian of Connecticut Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece. “

Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli called Chatzopoulos a “wonderful friend”.

“He never said ‘no’ to anyone who needed a cause. You knew he was there before you saw him because his laughter entered a room before him, always a hello and a laugh, ”Zeoli said. “He will be missed. He never stopped thinking about the next steps in business or in life. May he rest in peace.”

Former Republican State MP THEMIS KLARIDES, a close family friend and part of the Greek community, has visited Chatzopoulos on several occasions in recent days.

“George is the epitome of the American dream. … When you look at what George did, that’s what this country is all about, ”Klarides said. “He worked hard, but he gave money all the time because he knew he was lucky.”

Klarides said: “Even though her life was far too short” her life was fuller than many ever will be.

Jody Daymon, one of the three food superintendents at the Orange Country Fair, said she has conducted printing business with Chatzopoulos through her own company Barr Business Forms Co. and through the fair.

She said Chatzopoulos annually donates dough for her “famous” pancakes, syrup, butter, coffee and makes arrangements for equipment. He recently added waffles to the scene.

“He was very generous and kind. He deeply believed that the best way to grow a business was to give back to the community in which he lived, ”said Daymon. “George was a really interesting guy. He was a good person and he loved to party and have fun.

Bajko, the youngest of four Chatzopoulos children, said she and George, 10 years her senior, had been close since birth.

“We had a special bond,” she said. “He always took care of me. She said he treated his young sons like his own, and she and he were so alike that co-workers sometimes called him a “Mini-George,” she said.

Bajko says she and her siblings learned to help the community together through their parents and the generosity will continue in the community even though her brother is no longer here.

“We grew up being very humble and just enjoying everything. We came here with nothing (from Greece), ”Bajko said. “He had that passion, that strength, to take a business and keep the restaurants building,” and made sure that each of the restaurants would contribute to those communities, she says.

In addition to countless small fundraisers, for years (until COVID), Chip’s hosted a Thanksgiving Day fundraiser to raise thousands of dollars for various charities, and also hosted a fundraiser. annual spring meal fund for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Anne Marie sly, executive director of Orange Economic Development Corp., said she was saddened to learn of Chatzopoulos’ passing.

“He was a very kind and generous man and very involved in the Orange community. George served on the board of directors of the Orange Economic Development Corporation for the early years and played a very important role in the programs of the company, ”said Sliby. “Even when he left the board, he continued to contribute to our mission, while donating his time and resources to other fundraisers in the city. We are proud of Chip’s empire that he created and that started in Orange. It will really be missed.

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