A HOLE IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN
By Ken Sanders
I opened my current bookshop in downtown Salt Lake in 1997. Although I had seen numerous INTERNET PROPERTIES signs all over downtown, I didn’t yet know who or what Vasilios Priskos might be. I couldn’t even pronounce his name. Newly diagnosed with diabetes, I had begun an early morning regime of running up and down various stairways over at the Gallivan Center until I was spent. Dripping with sweat I would pass by developer Rick Howa’s newly opened coffee shop for a cup before heading back to the bookshop.
It was there, at Havana Brothers (coffee and cigars), that I first met Vasilios Priskos, Rick Howa and various other movers and shakers of SLC’s political, religious and business communities, and some media types thrown in as well. Despite Howa being Lebanese, I dubbed this early morning group the East Broadway Greek Mafia Coffee Klatch. It’s hard to remember, all these years later, and through the veil of tears shed at losing Vas, whom thought the other stranger: Vas and the Greek Mafia or me. Vas and Howa didn’t know what to make of the early morning stair-jogging hippie, nor did I know what to make of them.
But there on the sidewalks of east Broadway, they took me in. Howa started by buying me a cup of coffee and inviting me to join their circle of mayors and media moguls, religious and business leaders.
Vas, always curious and outgoing, would start conversations with me and made me feel included in their sidewalk café. Vas and I have stayed in contact over the past 20 years, and, slow learner that I am, it began to dawn on me how connected Vas was in the downtown community and how powerful and knowledgeable he was. Everybody knew Vas.
In recent years, after learning that the entire corner of Broadway and 2nd East, where my bookshop is located, had been sold to developers and was (and still is) slated to be torn down, I appealed to Vas to help find me a new home. Vas and JR Howa (yes, Rick Howa’s son) and the Internet Properties team worked with me to find a new home for my bookshop and we were temporarily successful.
Vas and JR located a new building and helped me buy it at a favorable price and at no profit to them! As it turns out, there were undisclosed problems with the new location, and I couldn’t begin to afford remodeling (that’s a whole other story). So, once again, Vas and his team came to my rescue and found a buyer for the building and sold it for me, at a profit to me!
Vasilios really cared about downtown Salt Lake City and small businesses--and particularly the small business people behind the very businesses that make our city unique and interesting. The restaurants and the bars, the nightlife and the performing arts, the coffee shops and the bodegas, the small retail shops, including bookstores, that add so much to the cultural fabric of our city. Vas was very civic-minded and served tirelessly on all manner of boards and non-profits.
Losing Vasilios to cancer at the very young age of 53 is a blow to the heart of downtown and all of us who dwell here. He will be mourned and missed by all of us whose lives he touched.