DINO STATHIS, ATHENS GIFT & MUSIC
Historian, storyteller or entrepreneur? With Dino Stathis, proprietor of the esteemed Athens Gift & Music, a Greektown landmark, it’s hard to tell. Like Homer, the famed poet of ancient Greece, conversations with Stathis filter into a combination of history and anecdotes, mostly involving his profound knowledge of Monroe Street, its environs and its venerable cast of characters.
Take Dr. Steve Georgiou, who recently passed away after a lifetime of Greek flag-waving and support for the enclave which he had a major role in leading from a quaint neighborhood of ethnic restaurants and apartments into Downtown’s hottest collection restaurants, clubs, shops and, of course, the casino. Having grown up in Greektown, Stathis mourns Dr. Steve with the respect of a true friend, sharing countless stories of the doctor’s dedication to his people and his favorite project, the betterment of his community.
Likewise, a host of individuals, most Greek but many not, fill the conversation, along with a history of the area, from its roots in the Twenties, its first heyday in the Sixties, and its rebirth in the Twenty First century. And he should know; his father set up shop here in 1929, following the edict of all successful businessmen: he found a niche and filled it. In the case of the elder Stathis it was a gift shop where Detroit’s growing Greek population could purchase hard-to-find necessities for weddings, baptisms and church services. This expanded to music, and to this day, Athens Gift & Music carries the most extensive inventory of traditional and modern Greek music in the State.
“We proved a vital service,” Stathis says, standing before a wall of icons—the sacred artwork of the Greek Orthodox faith, hand-painted in Byzantine style. “There are few places that folks can go to find, for example, the traditional wedding-crowns that play a part in Greek weddings. My father was a publisher and editor (Detroit Athens—a respected Greek American newspaper circulated until 1979) and he opened the gift shop in an old printing press office. Today, we’re the second oldest business in Greektown… only Laikon Café has been here longer.”
Amid the increasingly upscale Greek restaurants, Athens Gift & Music still provide the anchor for one of Detroit’s most popular destinations.