The true sign of Spring and the coming Summer is the rainbow umbrella above Gus and Yia-Yia’s orange and white Ice Ball cart.
When that cart appears on West Ohio Street along the border of the Allegheny Commons they know — The Season has begun!
Gus and Yia-Yia are indeed North Side icons of happy times —“Since your dad was a Lad.”
The Kalaris Ice Ball enterprise had its roots during the depression years — 1934 to be exact –, when Gus’s Dad, George, bought the very first Ice Ball stand.
From then to the present — Cart Number Six — Ice has been shaved, flavored, and served to millions of satisfied customers who came to West Ohio Street for a summertime treat.
George and Pauline Kalaris , living up on Sandusky Street, above what was then the “new ” Allegheny Hospital, developed the business, created the recipes for the home-made flavored syrups and arranged delivery of giant blocks of ice from Lenahan’s Ice house on Brighton Road.
At a young age Gus not only enjoyed his parents’ products but also took on a role in making the business successful.
As part of the Greek-American community on the North Side Gus, a Allegheny High School fellow met, wooed, and married Stella Bistolas, from Oliver High. Since then both have made the Ice Ball business a destination for several generations, including their own daughters, each and every summer.
During the years when Stella was with their young daughters Penelope and Christina, Gus’s Mom, now a grandmother, (a Yia-Yia in Greek) helped operate the Ice Ball stand
When Penny and Chrissy had families of their own, Stella, (now a Yia-Yia to their youngsters,) found herself at the cart, working with Gus, greeting new and old-time customers and friends.
Indeed, some folks have stopped by to the stand for decades to talk about old times, current events, and to meet friends.
To spend any warm summer day and evening on the bench nearby Gus’s cart is to glimpse a broad swath of North Side and Greater Pittsburgh society stop by to satisfy themselves with a cold Ice Ball or some peanuts and popcorn.
Old Timers bring their grand kids, young parents bring their toddlers in strollers, skateboarders and cyclists stop for a moment and head off sipping their cup of ice.
Over the years Gus has had many “helpers” at the cart. Mike Spanos worked at the stand throughout his high school and college years and continues helping Gus with the shaving and flavoring.
Mike has become a pro at making perfect Ice Ball.
It is the constant smile and courtesy each and every one receives from Gus and ‘Yia-Yia” that does indeed make this spot on the North Side of Pittsburgh and place where you definitely want to return.