Baroumes, George Nick
by John Chapman
George Nick Baroumes was born December 10, 1897 in Northern Greece. He first came to the United States as a cabin boy on a passenger liner, at the age of 12. Around 1915, he worked as a carpenter in Seattle and San Francisco. In 1916, he arrived in Juneau, Alaska. On his first day in town, George was robbed of all his money, while he was taking a shower at a local bathhouse.
Soon George found work as a cook in a local restaurant. Through hard work and frugal living he bought the Pioneer Café in the early 30s. George was quite a card player and frequented the backroom games. He won considerable amounts of money over the years.
In 1940, George married Nina Chapman, a vibrant woman with a son, Jerry, 13 and a daughter Dawn, 14. She owned a hobby shop on First and Main, where she also crafted leather goods. The marriage lasted five years, but they remained best friends until Nina died in 1981. They both said they were too strong willed for a partnership.
Over the years, George owned the New Yorker, a tavern, and the Imperial Café. He was a very successful businessman, but also very generous to those without, often serving meals at no charge. In 1965, he sold the Imperial Café to Nina’s son, Jerry Chapman. He retired to play cards and spend time at his cabin at Indian Cove, just south of the Auke Recreation area.
George was an immaculate dresser, always in a suit or slacks and cardigan sweater and his customary hat. He was also an avid walker and put in several hours every day walking up and down stairs and around town. For his bachelor lifestyle, George was very family oriented. He was always present at holidays and times in between.
He only went back to Greece twice in his lifetime. He sent money back home for many years and put several nieces and nephews through school. George was proud of his heritage, but was forever thankful to be an American citizen.
Up until his death on May 15, 1992, George could be seen playing cards at the Triangle or the Filipino Community Hall, and still walking about for most of the day. He was 94 years old!
He is one of the few pioneers to see Juneau develop from a full fledged mining town to the modern tourist destination it is today.