By Susie Ling
It was in 1979 that Jimmy and Maria Kypreos opened Monrovian Restaurant – but not at the northeast corner of Myrtle and Colorado. Many of Monrovian Restaurant’s dedicated customers remember. Joe of San Dimas said, “I used to come with my three daughters when we lived in Monrovia. Jimmy had the restaurant next door at 526 S. Myrtle, now the House of Windsor. These days, I come to eat once a week with my group that swims at the Y. The restaurant is a nice homey place and the menu is about the same.”
Monrovian Restaurant is always a meeting place. The men of the Presbyterian Church and the women of the Monrovia Latino Heritage Society like to meet informally here. The Kiwanis and Rotarians often use the second floor. There are life celebrations, business meetings, and birthday parties in the banquet room. The city managers of several local communities meet here too. Then there are the “Old Cats” group, alumni of Monrovia High. And of course, there are families, friends, and just hungry diners.
Another regular customer was George Schopeck. Schopeck came to art late in life and the Monrovian Restaurant is proud to display some of his Wild West paintings – as well as the works of other artists.
Manager Athena Serban has been working at the Monrovian Restaurant for 26 years. She said, “It’s a steady business. I’ve watched children grow up here and bring their own children. Monrovia is a friendly town where everyone seems to know everyone. A lot of our neighbors – Rudy’s, House of Windsor, Kattywompus – have been in Old Town for over 20 years too.”
Jimmy Kypreos left Greece penniless in 1968. He started as a casino dealer in Las Vegas. There he met his wife, Maria, the daughter of another Greek immigrant. They came to the San Gabriel Valley in the 1970s, joined St. Anthony’s Church in Pasadena, and bought the restaurant. Kypreos built the business and his community ties with Monrovia. Between 1989 and 1991, he would close the restaurant to paying customers on Thanksgiving. Instead, he – and his family and crew of about 25 workers – served 1,000 needy guests selected by the Monrovia Unity Center. He said then, “I’m thankful I have what I have. It’s something to give back to the community.” Now, owner Sia Soris volunteers with the Foothill Unity Center and feeds all their Back to School Drive volunteers.
Near 1994, Jimmy had an opportunity to buy the building just south of his first restaurant. Serban said, “He liked it more because it had a large parking lot and it was two stories. It used to be a bank.” Soris, Maria Kypreos’ sister, was the general manager. Around 2003, Soris purchased the place while Jimmy and Maria focused more of their attention on Grand Burger in Glendora, opened in 1991. Daphne Maddison opened neighboring House of Windsor in 1996.
California banking history was made on this intersection of Myrtle and Colorado. On July 2, 1887, First National Bank was established at the southwest corner of this junction, with Joseph Francis Sartori as its cashier. It was but four months behind Monrovia’s first bank, Granite Bank on Palm and Myrtle, established by city founders Spence, Bicknell, and Monroe. Sartori was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1858 and came to Southern California in 1887 chasing the land boom.
Sartori was Monrovia’s first city treasurer and vice president of the First National Bank until 1924. In 1889, Sartori became the founding president of Los Angeles’ Security Savings Bank and Trust Company. Security merged with First National Bank in 1929 to form Security-First, and that merged with San Francisco-based Pacific National Bank in 1968 to form Security Pacific National Bank. In 1992, Security Pacific was incorporated into the Bank of America.
Historian Steve Baker said about Monrovia, “First National Bank moved diagonally across the street to a new building in 1909. That building on the northeast corner was demolished in 1958, and the present building constructed.” The 534 S. Myrtle Ave. address was First National Bank, then Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles in the 1930s-50s, then Security Pacific Bank in the 1970s-80s, and then Monrovian Restaurant since the 1990s.
By the time of the 1990s national merger of Security Pacific and Bank of America, Monrovia already had a Bank of America branch, so the 534 S. Myrtle Ave. address became available.