LEADING THE PARADE
Two Putnam County business partners, who have worked together for six decades, will join an elite group of notables this year as they serve as co-parade grand marshals with retired public service leader Nancy Harris at this year’s Palatka Christmas parade Friday.
Chris and Bess Efstathion, owners of Kiddie Kampus, are also life partners having been married for 63 years. The couple opened their downtown Palatka store at 715 St. Johns Ave. Nov. 17, 1956. Today, the store offers infants and children’s wear and adults and children’s dancewear and supplies.
According to Bess Efstathion, she met her future husband when they were attending the same Greek Church in St. Augustine. He was from Palatka and she was from St. Augustine, but once they married Dec. 27, 1953, she moved to Palatka.
“I learned about the retail business from working at Belk’s in Palatka,” Chris Efstathion said. “After high school, college and time in the Navy, I came back and worked at Belk’s in Gainesville and, at age 26, decided to open my own store in Palatka.”
Bess Efstathion said their friends thought they were making a big mistake working together.
“They thought it would take a toll on our marriage,” she said. “But they are proud of us today.”
When asked what it takes to have a successful business for 60 years, the couple smiled.
“The same thing you have to do to have a successful marriage,” Bess Efstathion said. “There are ups and downs, but you get through it.”
“I agree,” Chris Efstathion said.
The Efstathions have three children – Evie Bodine of Decatur, Ga., Christopher Efstathion of Boston, Mass., and Leah Efstathion of Decatur, Ga. They have three grandchildren.
The Efstathions are honored to be Palatka’s parade grand marshals and look forward to seeing the smiling faces of friends and family as the parade winds its way down St. Johns Avenue on Friday.
“We’ve met some wonderful friends over the 60 years,” Bess Efstathion said. “Living here has been a great part of our lives. This town means a lot to us. We love Palatka and it was a blessing for us to watch its children grow.”
“The Efstathion family has served our community for 60 years at Kidde Kampus,” said Sam Deputy, parade coordinator. “They have supported all types of groups and events over the years and have been a vital part of Palatka and Putnam County.”
Palatka means a lot to the Efstathions.
“We couldn’t have found a better place to raise our kids,” Bess Efstathion said. “We have great kids and I attribute a lot of that to Palatka.”