Lt. Col. Charles Kyrie Kallas, Sheepshead Bay Businessman, Landlord And Visionary, Passes Away At 96

Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)
Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)

Lt. Col. Charles Kyrie Kallas, a longtime resident of Sheepshead Bay who predicted the neighborhood’s population boom in the mid-20th century and invested in commercial properties across the community, passed away in his sleep on Sunday at the age of 96.

Kallas came to New York City from Piraeus, Greece as a toddler in 1921, ushered through Ellis Island by his widowed mother. After immigrating, the family took up residence above the storefront at 1301 Avenue Z, and Kallas’ long journey to successful business man and real estate investor began as a humble hot dog seller on the Coney Island boardwalk.

“He was literally brought here at 3 years old and he’s 96. Can you imagine what he saw? And he remembered a lot of it, and relayed a lot of it,” said one of Kallas’ children, who asked not to be named as anything more than a family member. “I’m going to remember the vision that he had for his community and the commitment he had to his family.”

He attended P.S. 209 and Brooklyn Technical High School, where he later taught, and saved enough to open his first business – Beau Brummel Cleaners – on the ground-floor of the same building he grew up in, 1301 Avenue Z.  He found further success in dry cleaning when he began servicing the uniforms of enlisted men at Manhattan Beach Air Force Base, now Kingsborough Community College.

Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)
Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)

He soon became one of the enlisted. Kallas joined the Air Force, serving the nation during a time span that included World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, finally retiring in 1971, with a total of 12,000 flying hours under his belt, including 550 combat hours. He continued flying commercially, and that’s how his family will think of him.

“[I’ll always remember] his love of flying. He was a really, really proud patriot, and somebody who loved his country, loved his family, loved his neighborhood, loved Brooklyn. There’s a reason we decided to bury him on Thursday – it’s Brooklyn-Queens Day. He was a Brooklyn boy and it’s what he would have wanted.”

Locally, Kallas will forever be remembered as an accomplished real estate investor and landlord. When the neighborhood was still a sparsely populated community with empty fields and stretches of dirt roads, he accurately foresaw the coming population boom, brought on by cheap housing, flight from the city’s more densely populated urban centers, and the growth of co-ops, and seized upon the opportunity by investing in properties that would later become businesses to serve the new residents.

Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)
Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)

He bought his first property in the 1950s, a dilapidated home on the northeast corner of East 16th Street and Avenue Z. The building was on auction by the city, and he and his brother snatched it up.

“The house was really old and falling apart and was deserted, and they had the vision to say, when there was nothing commercial there, let’s take the building down and build four stores,” said the relative. “And that was the first vision to turn the home into something that would be a business. Over the years its been so many things, a Chinese restaurant, a barber shop, and from there it spread throughout Sheepshead Bay.”

After renovating it, Kallas and his brother mortgaged the property, using the funds to buy a second lot. And then a third. And so on. This reporter knows of more than a dozen storefronts on and just off Sheepshead Bay Road owned by the family’s various businesses, which include Waldorf Realty Co, Inc and Kallas Family Partnership L.P., but the family declined to provide specific numbers.

“My father never would have walked around and said I own so many buildings,” said Kallas’ relative. “It just wasn’t his style.”

Looking forward to a better future was more his style, the relative said. When Kallas’ home and many of his properties were flooded and damaged during Superstorm Sandy, he didn’t wallow in the destruction. Instead he saw opportunity.

“He turned around and said, ‘From the ashes rises the phoenix,’ and he kept talking about how it’s going to be better,” said the relative, who added that the companies that continue to operate his holdings have adopted that sense of optimism. “Going forward, all we talk about is how to make it better than what it was.”

Many of Kallas’ properties around Sheepshead Bay Road are undergoing significant renovations, redevelopments and improvements.

Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)
Charles Kyrie Kallas (Source: Kallas Family)

Kallas remained active in his later years, despite multiple strokes. He was a frequent sight in the community, donning a handle bar mustache and Greek fisherman’s cap while smoking a pipe or cigar. In 2013, he published an autobiography, On the Wings of the Wind: The Story of the Last Navigator, proceeds of which are donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

“In the end, he went on his own terms. Peacefully, in his sleep. He wanted to be in his own home and he wanted to be in Sheepshead Bay and in the end we’re grateful to have had him as long as we did,” said the relative.

Kallas is survived by his wife of 64 years, Virginia, his four children and six grandchildren.

The colonel’s “final flight” will take place today, June 3, from 2pm to 5pm and from 7pm to 10pm at Cusimano & Russo Funeral Home, 2005 West 6th Street. Call (718) 372-1348 for more info.

The funeral will take place Thursday, June 4, 11am at Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church at 143 East 17th Street.

The family has requested that instead of flowers, a donation can be made on his behalf to the Wounded Warrior Project.

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