MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Charlie Vergos, the man who made Rendezvous ribs a world-wide tradition, was remembered Monday for not only creating great barbeque, but also for helping transform downtown Memphis.
Vergos died Saturday morning after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's.
Family and friends say Vergos believed in downtown Memphis when few others did.
"We used to say anyone that was downtown Memphis in those days was either lost or looking for the Rendezvous," Vergos' son John Vergos said. "There were only two restaurants open after six o'clock at night, the Rendezvous and the arcade."
Before downtown's resurgence, people urged Vergos to move out to the suburbs. But the Memphis native didn't give up on downtown, which is why many people say the city is what it is today.
"With the restaurant being there it gave others the indication that if you worked hard at it as Charlie did, and the family did, you two could be successful in downtown Memphis," businessman Calvin Anderson said.
The 84-year-old invested in one of downtown's first condominium projects in the Cotton Building, donated thousands of tulip bulbs each year to the Memphis Park Commission, and helped raise money for the Memphis Zoo.
Spiros Angelakis met Vergos, the son of Greek immigrants, when he opened the Mark Twain Cafeteria in 1957.
He would come by every Sunday and say, now look Spiros, I want to show you how you handle this roast beef," Angelakis said. "He'd get behind that line every Sunday and slice that roast beef, and slice that ham and say look here this is the way you do it."
Angelakis says Vergos was a generous man.
"Everybody talks about Charlie being gruff and probably so, but his true personality was inside, warm tender, caring."
Which is probably why he was able to keep employees like Robert Stewart Senior for 50 years, and Albert Hurt for 37 years.
That, and maybe because the barbeque ribs are pretty good.