Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Skyline Chili History

This year, a poll ranking the Business Courier's Top 100 Cincinnati Brands placed Skyline Chili at number one, beating out brands such as the Reds, Bengals, LaRosa's, Graeter's and P&G. (No other chili parlors made the top 25.) For the majority of people, Skyline Chili is the face of Cincinnati style chili.

Skyline's emergence, however, was as humble as any other Cincinnati chili parlor's. Greek immigrant, Nicholas Lambrinides scraped together a living by using his cooking skills in local dining establishments. After working at Empress Chili for awhile, Lambrinides and his sons opened a restaurant in 1949. Located on Glenway Avenue, the parlor overlooked the city, which inspired the name Skyline. It gained a strong local following. It was said to be especially busy on Thursdays and Saturdays since the neighborhood was predominantly Catholics who observed meatless Fridays.

A second restaurant was opened in 1953, and the franchise continued to steadily grow for the next few decades, including the introduction of frozen chili into grocery stores.  In the 1980's a man named Thomas Bell became chief executive and lead a passionate campaign to make Skyline a national chain. With attempts to push into markets where there was little Skyline name recognition, such as Washingotn D.C., the company lost money and stocks went public. During the 1900s the company pulled out of these markets and focused on growth in Cincinnati.

Lambrinides died in 1962, and the original Glenway location was demolished in 2002. But the Skyline legacy continues with over a hundred locations and name recognition as the "official chili" of the Reds, Columbus Blue Jackets, Kings Island, and the Crosstown Shootout.

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