Nicholas Gus Lambros, 98, ran a chain of drugstores

February 14, 1999|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Nicholas Gus Lambros, a Greek immigrant who in the early 1900s began a string of successful Baltimore businesses -- including several drugstores -- died Tuesday of heart failure at the Hart Heritage nursing home in Street. He was 98.

Knowing no English, Mr. Lambros came to Baltimore in about 1915, his ship having landed at Ellis Island, N.Y., part of a wave of Greeks seeking a new life in the United States.

Along with his father and two brothers who had earlier come to the city, he ran a street-corner peanut stand -- which generated the money to open the first of five drugstores throughout the city.

"When he first came over, he probably had more hope than he had money," said his son, Constantine N. Lambros of Monkton. "He came over with the idea that hard work meant success. He worked hard."

He returned to his native Karista, a village near Sparta, Greece, twice, in 1934 and 1936, to visit his mother, who had continued to live in the family's centuries-old stone cottage. He became a U.S. citizen in 1927 and attempted to enlist in the Army in 1941 at the onset of World War II. However, he was rejected because of his age.

Mr. Lambros, who lived in Ruxton for much of his life, worked hard and found success, both with family members as partners and as a solo businessman.

He founded and owned an East Baltimore funeral home, owned an apartment building, and along with his wife ran five coin-operated laundries in the city.

The peanut stand at Pennsylvania Avenue and Fulton Street was perhaps his most challenging enterprise. From 1918 to 1921, he spent many hours with his father and brothers at the coal-burning, potbellied stove used to roast peanuts.

"They also sold chewing gum, and the business was successful," said another of his sons, Anthony N. Lambros of Fallston. "In fact, it was so successful that they even began to sell ice cream -- even in the winter."

His family opened the first of five drugstores -- called Lambros Drugs -- in the 1920s. The stores had soda fountains and sold everything from patent medicines to root beer floats.

Each store was at trolley car stops and main intersections and became after-school gathering places for youngsters.

"People liked to come to Lambros because it was friendly, and it was cozy, and the people were nice," said Rachel Shaw, who lived near the Lambros drug store at Greenmount and North avenues.

He retired in 1982.

While in Baltimore, Mr. Lambros was active with the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, which helped foster development of the Greek- American community in the city. He was a founding member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation downtown.

"He was always a self-made man," said his daughter, Mary N. Roemer of Parkton. "He was successful, but he was a workaholic."

Services were held yesterday.

Mr. Lambros married the former Antoinette Sperandeo in 1936; she died in 1948.

In addition to his children, he is survived by a sister, Lillian Malas of Baltimore; and seven grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Pediatric Oncology Friends, care of the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, 550 N. Broadway, Suite 801, Baltimore, 21205.

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