Two signs hang on Jerry Costacos’ office door. On his 40th birthday, one of his employees put a sign saying “THE GOLDEN GREEK – O CRISO ELLHN.” Another sign saying “GO GREEK GO” had been placed there by a good friend.
Years later, the signs are still there. The words truly describe Costacos’ life which has been blessed with the Midas touch and full of energy. As one of the longest continuously operated Greek businesses in downtown Seattle, Jerry Costacos’ parking garage is an institution. The business began in 1954. Now in its 58th year, its name morphed from Jerry’s U Drive with 3 vehicles, to Aladdin Car Rental, to Airways Rent-a-Car, to American International and finally to Budget Rent-a-Car. The holdings include three parking garages in downtown Seattle.
Jerry was born in Seattle in 1926 and moved to Greece with his family when he was four years old. Following a series of illnesses and financial problems the family returned to Seattle. By this time Jerry spoke no English and had to play catch-up in school with the help of two other Greek children who spoke English. He graduated from West Seattle High School and served in the United States Navy as World War II was coming to a close. He proudly recounts stories of his service. The GI Bill helped him attend the University of Washington where he studied real estate in the School of Business Administration.
A love of cars and a way with people made him a natural for the garage business. His father had owned 25% of the building where the garage is still located and challenged his son to make a success of the business. Jerry certainly has done that and has used his success to aid a number of causes. He is deeply devoted to his Greek Orthodox faith and his Greek culture. He always wins prizes at fund raisers – it’s not his luck, he always buys the most raffle tickets!
Talking with Jerry is like opening an encyclopedia of Greek history in Washington State. He may know more about Greek families than the family members themselves. He is a true story teller, and his stories reflect an innate honesty, humility and humor. The content of the story is far exceeded by his affected Greek accent and his hand and facial gestures. With his longevity and his gregarious personality, he is known for his amazing memory of dates and details about Greeks in Seattle and beyond.
Here is a story that Jerry tells much better in the video, “Jerry at Gunpoint,” that appears below: At one time he had to retrieve a vehicle that was suspected of being used in a robbery. Not knowing that Jerry was the legal agent for the car and that he was accompanied by an FBI agent, four local police held both at gunpoint until proper identification was provided.
Jerry and his wife Eva (nee Tsalaky) continue their active life with a home base in West Seattle. Fishing, skiing, visiting children and basking in the sun on Washington’s Hood Canal are only a few of their activities.
“I still go to work whenever I’m in town.”By John Nicon, May 2011
1 Jerry hard at work
2 Jerry at West Seattle High School
3 Jerry in the Navy
4 Jerry and Paul Sava
5 Jerry’s Garage on Fourth Avenue
6 Jerry and Eva Costacos at home
Photos 1 and 6 by John Nicon; All other photos from Costacos Family Collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, May 2011