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ASHLAND Vicky Barouxis figured she would work at her father’s doughnut shop for maybe three years and then start a career of her own — she had just graduated from Marshall University with a degree in chemical technology.

That was in 1981. Her father died of a heart attack in 1985 and that left her manager of the shop and the main breadwinner for her family.

Thirty-six years later, Barouxis still owns and operates the shop. She never did work in the chemical industry, but she’s not sorry about that.

It’s been a life of hard work and long hours, but she’s not sorry about that, either.

It’s been a life linked to a childlike figure dressed in a red polka-dot bandana, striped shirt, blue shorts and black boots and brandishing a sword — the corporate logo of Jolly Pirate Donuts. Barouxis owns and operates the shop in the 2000 block of Winchester Avenue.

Her father, Nikolaos Barouxis, immigrated to the United States from Greece in 1974, bringing his wife Panagiota, whom everyone called Popi, and his three children. Barouxis is the eldest of the three.

Greece was politically unstable at the time and her uncle in Columbus — who was in the doughnut business — suggested her father could do well if he came to America.

Barouxis was 18, a senior in high school and spoke hardly a word of English when the family came over; she graduated from Huntington High School and enrolled at Marshall, still struggling with language.

She remembers her college mathematics and physics classes being much easier than, for instance, psychology, because numbers are the same in any language.

Her father ran a Huntington doughnut shop with a partner. He bought the Ashland store with his last $500 and a loan for the balance.

He asked Barouxis, then 23 and freshly graduated from college, to help him run the shop. She had worked part-time at the Huntington shop but still knew nothing about the business. But she said yes, because her father needed her.

She didn’t know it at the time, but she was about to start learning not only about business, but about life.

Her father took her aside and told her most of the employees she would be working with would be older and she would have to earn their respect. “He told me, don’t expect them to do anything you wouldn’t do. You have to set the example,” she said.

Though she was the owner’s daughter, she swept floors, baked doughnuts, waited tables, poured coffee and washed up, in addition to learning management responsibilities.

She was learning to treat workers with respect, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because competent workers are the heart of a business. “They can make or break you,” she said.

The doughnut business is a demanding one. Her store used to be open 24 hours a day every day of the week. Now it closes from midnight until 5 a.m. but workers are still there preparing for the morning rush. Doughnuts are baked three times a day and four times on weekends.

No doughnut is on the shelf more than 12 hours; if it hasn’t sold by then the store donates it.

Her day typically starts at 6 a.m. She is at the store by 8 a.m., sometimes earlier. She remains there until 2 or 3 p.m. and then returns in the evening from about 7-10:30 p.m.

These days she doesn’t bake or mind the counter unless she is short on workers. But if there is a hole in the shift and no one else available to plug it, she takes up the slack. “If someone doesn’t show up at six, you come in at six. If something happens, like the electricity goes off, you have to be available . . . I don’t think people realize the commitment.”

She tries to keep Sundays for herself. She is active in St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Huntington and considers its parish an extension of her family.

Her first four years she made $75 a week, even then a paltry salary, but there was that startup loan to pay back at the 18 percent interest rate that was the norm in the early 1980s.

Her mother counseled her to look to the future when the business would be hers and secure. Looking back she realizes her mother was right.

Her son Nicholas, 25, works at the store. He also is a Marshall graduate; his degree is in marketing. Nicholas has been working part time since he was 16. He is learning the business the same way she did — performing every task in the store.

Looking back at her career, she is not disappointed that she chose doughnuts over the chemical industry. “It was a good thing, even with all the difficulties, the ups and downs. You have to work hard,” she said.

That is part of the American dream that brought her father over from Greece. “He was a hard worker but he also looked to the future. That’s why we came here to this country of opportunity. This is the greatest country in the world,” she said.

(606) 326-2652 |

mjames@dailyindependent.com

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