Chris Karkabasis: Death of well-known Lindsay restaurant titan triggers community outpouring
Chris Karkabasis, who long ago dreamt of a better life in Canada for his future family, and found it in Lindsay, has died at 84.
Karkabasis, who grew up in a small village about 10 km outside of Sparta, Greece, had returned to Greece in 2019 with his wife, Cathe. They were trying to avoid the long Canadian winter, with the intention of returning to Lindsay in the spring. When COVID caused lockdowns in Europe, they decided instead to settle into life not far from Mount Taygetos, just outside of Sparta.
The long-time owner and proprietor of Lindsay’s storied Olympia Restaurant, Karkabasis had also owned and operated The Cottage Restaurant, just down the street.
In a public statement made on social media, Nicki Dedes, who was in Greece with her father when he died, said “it is with tremendous sadness to announce the passing of my father…”
“A magnificent, kind soul that was my wonderful father, mentor and friend. He lived large in every sense of the word, imparting an innate and deep wisdom to everyone that ever met him. He left this world with grace, humour, determination and the grit of a true Spartan. Our world weeps at the loss of him. His memory will remain eternal in our hearts.”
Karkabasis had the itch to travel at a young age. He wound up in Toronto as a 16-year-old and “found he loved it here,” says Dedes.
“He was working day and night shifts in multiple positions, intent on completing his high school diploma,” says Dedes.
Karkabasis found a high school on Bathurst Street where English language courses were taught to the thousands of new Canadians coming to live and work in the bustling city. Between learning English and other needed courses, as well as working at multiple jobs, he completed his high school equivalent.
On a return trip to Greece in the 1960s Karkabasis would meet his future wife, Cathe, and they were married within months, in 1962. Their marriage would last more than 61 years.
They were a part of the third wave of Greek nationals to North America, most of whom arrived for economic reasons, to make a better life.
While Karkabasis was in Toronto, he heard that the Cottage Restaurant on Kent Street in Lindsay was coming available. Seeing an opportunity, the family moved to Lindsay in 1969.
The restaurant was open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., seven days a week.
“We loved growing up in a smaller community,” says Dedes. “It was very welcoming.
Meanwhile, down the street, Eudoxia Tozios, a dynamic Greek woman, had been running the popular Olympia Tea Room for more than three decades. (And prior to it being the tea room, it operated as Olympia Candy Works in the 1920s, making the Olympia name in Lindsay more than a century old.)
In 1980, Tozios approached Karkabasis to see if he was interested in buying it. For about a year, the Karkabasis family were running both the Cottage Restaurant and the Olympia at the same time before a cousin took over the Cottage for another decade.
In 2018 Karkabasis was given a rare lifetime achievement award from the Lindsay + District Chamber of Commerce. One of the founders of the BIA, he also served as a councillor for the Town of Lindsay and was a past Lindsay and District Chamber of Commerce president.
Much of the background for this piece on the life of Chris Karkabasis was originally published in 2022.