BALTIMORE (WJZ) — H&S owner, multi-millionaire entrepreneur John Paterakis Sr., has passed away at the age of 87.
Our media partner, The Baltimore Sun reports his family said Paterakis died Sunday at Johns Hopkins Hospital from complications of myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disorder.
Paterakis built his father’s H&S Bakery into the largest privately-owned bakery in the country, redeveloped Harbor East, and made governors and mayors his political beneficiaries.
Thanks to his hands-on direction and astute business sense, H&S Bakery became one of the largest bakers on the East Coast. The company’s subsidiary, Northeast Foods Inc., is a principal baker to McDonald’s as the largest source of hamburger buns.
“Mr. Paterakis believed in Baltimore,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“From humble beginnings and through hard work and determination, he grew his small family business into one of the largest bakeries in the country,” she said in a statement. “He was a visionary leader focused on growing Baltimore and his impact can be seen throughout the city.”
John Paterakis was born in Baltimore in 1929. He was a 1947 graduate of Patterson Park High School and had plans to attend college, but after his father became ill and died of leukemia in 1952, he began running the baking side of what was his father’s business and worked with his uncle and aunt as business partners.
With the help of what was then new cutting-edge technology for mass production in the food industry, H&S went from a three-employee shop into a baking empire. He moved into its now-familiar Fleet Street-Fells Point location in the 1950s.
He helped redevelop part of the downtown harbor, after a suggestion from his friend William Donald Schaefer. A good portion of this area became Harbor East, developing the Marriott Waterfront Hotel as well as the Four Seasons Hotel.
He was also one of the owners of Bulle Rock, a public golf course surrounded by upscale homes in Havre de Grace that drew the LPGA Championship tournament to the area in the 2000s.
Over the years he made donations to, and also came under fire for, his contributions to the campaigns of late governor and vice president Spiro T. Agnew, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, Sen. Paul Sarbanes and former Mayors William Donald Schaefer and Kurt Schmoke.
Nancy Grasmick, the former Maryland State Superintendent of Schools and a friend of Paterakis, called him an “extraordinary” person and devoted friend.
“He was a businessman who was totally self made and who had very special skills for both cultivating important customers and delivering an outstanding product,” Grasmick said. “But he had a vision that was beyond the bakery and its success, and that vision was to improve Baltimore.”
Other leaders from around Baltimore were inspired by Paterakis, admired him and his accomplishments.
“The City of Baltimore lost a great champion,” said Senator Catherine E. Pugh
“He was an accomplished businessman who contributed to the growth of our city and was well known for his philanthropic endeavors on behalf of numerous organizations and causes, especially in the Greek community.”
“He said he was a little baker that got lucky, but he was truly much more. John Paterakis loved our city and he will truly be missed by all those who knew and loved him,” she added.
He is remembered by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, as “an extremely devoted friend and family man who spent more than six decades working to improve our city and provide opportunities for countless Baltimoreans.”