The history of Jim’s guys and gals is interlaced with family, in-laws, friends, and neighborhood connections. The unique makeup of the young men and women who have interned and learned what it takes to make a great sandwich contribute to the quality and consistency of Jim's service and offerings. Jim's crew represents a number of family generations, who have managed to balance their work without compromising an education. All members of the family saw action in the store: Jim, who started it in 1927, his wife Melanie, sons Al, Gus and Syl, daughter Juliette, grandsons Greg and Brian Homoki, and now great grandson Frank Homoki. In 2021, Syl's daughters Lynne, Laurie, and Leigh started supporting operations behind the scenes and online.
Tsambikos (Jim) Damianos was born in Greece in 1896. In his early 20’s, he immigrated to the US, joined the US Army and was shipped to France where he met and married Melanie Barboteau. They moved to McKeesport, Pennsylvania in1919 where Jim opened a small restaurant/grocery. In 1927, he moved the business to a house on Walnut Street. Half of the first floor was converted into Jim’s Restaurant. The entire family worked in the store. In 1948, Jim moved the family into a new two-story building, with living quarters behind and above a grocery store at 2600 Skyline Drive in West Mifflin. He eventually removed the restaurant tables. Later he removed the counter and stools, added a take-out window, and Jim’s Drive-In was born. When Jim started his restaurant, he had a full-scale operation. When the Depression came along, restaurants didn't do so well, and he started selling hot dogs for 5¢ apiece. Jim had lots of sandwiches. Using a blackboard for daily menus, Jim simply erased the ones that weren't selling. He narrowed it down to five sandwiches: the hamburger, ham barbecue, hot dog, kielbasa and Italian sausage.
The secret to Jim's success is consistency. The Jim's team just keeps doing the same thing that Jim did. Today, the folks at Jims still provide the same level of consistency and commitment. Many have followed in the footsteps of several generations of family members. They're serving customers who are the fifth or sixth generation. Those who move away revisit. Word of mouth has created the market. Although the steel industry left the area and there was a deep recession, Jim's has shown at least a 10% business increase each year.
Al Damianos will be remembered as the heart and soul of Jim’s. He managed, greeted customers, and told jokes until he passed away on September 28, 2017 at the age of 97. He was a great dancer and enjoyed a well-rounded career as a pool shark, WW2 serviceman in the US Air Force (stationed in London and in Texas), and steel worker. After working for a glass company and selling insurance, he somewhat reluctantly joined his father in 1953 to work in the restaurant full time. When Jim passed away in 1959, Al ran the business. He managed to keep everyone hopping and supplied them with an incredible foray of jokes.
Syl Damianos has returned to pick up where Al left off. As a grade school youngster in McKeesport, he washed dishes when he could reach the sink and enthusiastically assisted in making ice cream with his dad. He was in charge of the West Mifflin store every day after school while his father napped. To enhance his daily meals, he created the Cheese Dog. Syl served in the army, is an honors graduate from Carnegie Mellon University, and was a Fulbright Scholar in The Netherlands. He practiced architecture for over 60 years and was national president of The American Institute of Architects. In his free time, he creates sculpture and furniture.
The late Gus Damianos and Brian Homoki were instrumental in maintaining the family business. Gus had a great job as a crane operator in the National Tube mill and joined Al in the store following Jim’s passing. Gus also was a fine commercial artist. Brian started at Jim’s in the early 70’s, worked there for over 30 years, and planned to stay forever (and be joined later by his son, Frank). Unfortunately, both Gus and Brian lost the battle of life at early ages. We miss them very much.
Mike Bosway has been with Jim's since the early 1990s, and became Manager in 2018. He considers “Jim’s crew” to be his family. A graduate of West Mifflin High School, Mike furthered his education at Penn State University. Mike goes for the Cheeseburger with Jim’s Famous Sauce, onions, and pickles. When asked what has kept him on the job for so long, he offered, “The work environment is great! I enjoy the other ‘guys,’ and I rather liked Al’s jokes.”
Shawn Hone is Assistant Manager. He started working during his senior year of high school in 2012 and is a dedicated worker who takes pride in his work (really enjoys cooking). His favorite sandwich is the Cheeseburger with sauce, onions, and pickle.