Elias Zizi came to Washington from Athens, Greece, 14 years ago at the age of 20, with $50 in his pocket, wearing his only worldly possessions, and today, out of sentiment, those same clothes hang in a closet of his $60,000 home in Arlington, Va.
In addition to this real estate, Zizi leases six parking lots, owns the parking concession at the Madison Hotel, a boutique in the outer lobby of the Madison, another boutique at the Watergate, and a flourishing restaurant on Connecticut Avenue.
To run all of this he employs 52 permanents, and in some seasons, by adding temporary help, the number of people working for him reaches 160. The payroll he meets each year for all the help runs into thousands of dollars.
He tells his success story in a nice, excited way, by poking you on the arm to make sure you're listening as he glances around to see if there is another loose buck for him to pick up.
"Listen, my friend," he says at the beginning of every sentence, "I came here with one mixed suit, one pair of shoes, one tie, everything I had was one."
Zizi enrolled at American University his first day in America and four years later he graduated with a degree in business administration.
He lived with a friend the first week and the rented a room in a private home near the scool.
From a fast-moving parking lot attendant at the Madison, a job he landed the first day he arrived in Washington, Zizi, who could spot a big tipper 10 yards away moved up to night manager and later to general manager.
It was only after he had been at the Madison a few weeks that the steady customers began to look for him to get their cars.
Zizi had a good working knowledge of cars, and added another service by detecting a problem that might be coming up; "Listen, my friend, your 'walwo' is a good car, you have to take care of your car. There is a noise in the transmission. You better get it looked at."
This service, designed to extract a larger gratuity from a pleased customer, prompted one to say one night, "That Zizi, he goes to AU and he's studying how to make money."
Marshall Coyne, a Washington businessman who, among other things, owns the Madison, is a man ZIzi greatly admires. The admiration became stronger on the day Coyne gave the hard-working young Greek the garage concession. At the time he told ZIzi, "If there is any way I can help you set started, don't hestitate to call."
Zizi, not being the shy type, called, and the busy Coyne answered by helping him to get started in other business ventures.
To help add to his enjoyment of wealth and his complusion to burn up energy. Zizi branched out from the garage and leased the spacce in the outside looby of the Madison and opened a large boutique.
Not at all disillusioned by the discovery that the streets of America are paved in asphalt instead of the proverbial gold he utilized this discovery by leasing two parking lots in Rosslyn and four more near the D.C. Court House.
Elias, who prefers to be called by his last name, Zizi, is a narrow-waisted, strong-shouldered 6 feet 1, 195-pound fast-mover who cannot sit down for a minute.
Listen my friend, I put in a 100 hour week. I leave the house at 6 a.m. and get home about 9 at night seven days a seek. Then I do paper work until very late.'
he has not taken a vacation since he first started working at the Madison and someday he would like to visit Greece, "If I live that long," he says.
By working hard over the long hours he has been able to add to his fast growing "mini" empire his second boutique - at the Watergate - and a successful restaurant called "Lunt's Connection," on Connecticut Avenue. When you talk with Zizi he surrounds you. No matter which way you turn he is there facing you, waving his arms in the Mediterranean fashion of speaking while shouting his indignation over a switch in Greek politics. (His own seem to lean a little toward the radical), or about something that came down from Capitol Hill that confuses him.
There is very little in world politics that might confuse him. Even with his busy schedule he manages to read several American newspapers a day, along with a French, German and Greek daily.
His accent is still strong, and once in awhile when kidded in a good-natured way about a word or phrase he has garbled, he smiles, raises his eyebrows, taps your arm gently and says, "Listen, my friend, I know my English words. How many Greek words can you say?"
A few years back when he had enough money to get along on, Zizi brought his widowed mother and his sister to Washington. His father had been killed in Germany in World War II.
He is still single and he says about marriage: "Listen, my friend, I like the girls, but I don't have any time to get married." Then laughing he adds, "Besides, I have my mother living with me."
Crime upsets him, and he was so fascinated by the Watergate scandals he couldn't wait each evening for the early editions of the next day's paper to come out.
his comments and opinions were loud ever as he related this tale.
There he was one afternoon, sitting in his furnished room studying, when he got up to look out the window.
Down below some guy was getting into Z/z/'s car. Grabbing a bat, he ran down the stairs to his car. Waving the bat and yelling at the top of his lungs he kept the crook in the car until the neighbors called the police. Upon arrival a very relieved hood was happy to be taken off in handcuffs, away from this madman.
Zizi doesn't know where he will branch out next, and just wished the weeks were longer.
When asked if he maybe had an eye on the Madison Hotel itself, he smiled, shrugged his shoulders, winked his eye and said, "Listen, my friend, this is a joke no? Who knows, maybe someday."