JACKSON, MISS– If taking the annual trip to the Mississippi State Fair has been your early fall tradition, then surely you’ve taken a stroll down the Midway.
If you start in the Kid Zone, make your way past the iconic, up year-round green and yellow slide, and keep heading back toward the Ring-of-Fire, you’ll notice a few things: the smell of the food and livestock, the lights of the games and rides, and in the center of the Midway, Costas’ Place.
Costas Pavlou has been running Costas’ Place for over three decades.
“34 years,” said “They used to call me ‘the Mayor of the Fairgrounds.'”
Costas immigrated to Jackson from Greece 55 years ago. Costas’ Place got its start years later, after he made the decision to loan his friend some money.
“Friend of mine, have right here, a smoke place. And he came to me to borrow some money,” said Costas. “I come back to collect my money, he said to me ‘I don’t have it, you know what I mean, I make you partner.'”
After a few years of partnering with his friend, Costas bought the place, and over the years as the State Fair grew, his business grew with it.
And with that expansion came the loyalty of the people who have made Costas’ Place part of the annual pilgrimage. It’s the people that continues to draw him to this business each year.
“A lot of people return, and come back here,” said Costas. “And they get married, have children.. and some of them I don’t see for a long time.”
But it’s not just the customers who are loyal. Some of the employees are just as much of Costas’ Place as the grilled chicken sandwiches and Greek seasoning.
“I’ve got Angie over there, I’ve got Steve, I’ve got Melissa over there,” said Costas, gesturing toward the kitchen. “I’ve got a girl that’s worked here 25 years, 28 years…”
Costas lives for the state fair. And whether you visit his place or not, he had a message for the people on the fence about making the drive to the Jackson for the two week event.
“It’s a good time to bring the kids,” said Costas. “It’s real clean, there are great vendors, and good security.”
Here’s the full interview with Costas: