During his teaching career, Janavaras took a leave from MSU for two years to get his doctorate and for five years to found consulting firm Janavaras & Associates in St. Paul.
Janavaras returned to Mankato and teaching from St. Paul after his 15-year-old son, John Janavaras, died of bacterial meningitis in 1995. He died during an outbreak that deeply shook the Mankato area and brought community vaccinations and national media attention.
When Janavaras was 19, he left Greece to live with his uncle and brother who were in business in North Dakota.
When his passport expired, Janavaras tried to get it renewed because the Greek military had taken over the government, suspended the Constitution and were torturing people.
“They refused to renew my passport and immigration told me to go back.”
Enter North Dakota Sen. Milton Young, senior Republican in Congress.
“My uncle Gus never finished college but was very intelligent and very well known. Sen. Young was a friend of my uncle and intervened. He said the only way to do it was a ‘private bill.’ ”
The bill, changing Janavaras’ status from student to immigrant, allowed him to remain in the country and seek citizenship.“I was very honored. I have a copy of the bill yet.”
Janavaras said that while teaching business theory is good, he believed he needed to see the practical side of running businesses as well.
He and his wife, Linda, owned the Odyssey gift stores downtown and at River Hills Mall, closing the last one in 2009. He continues to work in his consulting business. And he and Linda recently started a business importing “premium, competitively priced” wine from Greece.
The three brands of wine come from three regions of Greece and sell for $10 to $27 a bottle. (JanavarasEnterprises.com). They are distributed at some local liquor stores and restaurants.