Charles Vergos, founder of Rendezvous, dies

Charles Vergos (Source:
Charles Vergos (Source:

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Charles Vergos, founder of the Rendezvous in downtown Memphis, passed away Saturday morning.

Family members said Vergos, 84, died in his sleep.

Vergos' family said they owed it to the citizens of Memphis to keep the Rendezvous doors open Saturday.  They said it was a tribute to the late restaurateur who many called Mr. Downtown.

Rendezvous was bustling with rib seekers all day, many not knowing the historic significance of their meal.

The restaurant has been around for 62 years.  Over the years, Vergos hosted heads of state, international celebrities and the everyday Mid-Southerner.

Family members said some of the staff had worked there for more than 50 years because Vergos created a family environment.

"My father passed away 25 years ago," Dean Carayiannis, Charles' nephew, said, "so he took me under his wing as he did everybody else."

"He took care of me and I'm very grateful to have ever worked for him," Nelson "Bobby" Ellis, kitchen manager, said.  "I don't think I could have worked for a greater man."

The restaurant's floor manager, Patrick Donahue, said he could not think of closing down.

"We're going to stay open and we're going to make people happy and that's what he enjoyed doing," Donahue said.  "He's upstairs, looking down and laughing and saying, 'it's all up to you guys now'."

Donahue said everyone had a Charlie Vergos story.

"He said, 'son, if you want to work for me, you've got to make sure you have your A-game'," Donahue said.  "I said, 'yes, sir I do.'  He taught me a lot."

Carayiannis said that if it had to do with downtown Memphis, Vergos was behind the scenes.

"He was instrumental in so many things he never wanted credit for," Carayiannis said.

Vergos began making ham and cheese sandwiches behind the bar until he discovered a coal chute in the basement, which allowed him to make a grill.  Now, the Rendezvous draws every walk of life.

"I didn't finish high school," Ellis said.  "I can say I fed the president of the United States."

Donahue said the Rendezvous and Memphis will miss Vergos.

"It's loud, wild, crazy.  We called it controlled chaos," Donahue said.  "Nobody could control it like Big Charlie.  He was the captain.  It's going to be tough, but we're going to try boss."

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