HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — For the Graphos family, the question was never if they were going to bring back the family business, but how.
On October 5, 2021, Sam Graphos died after spending a week in hospice care. Graphos, whose family had been involved in several restaurants across Birmingham over the years–including Sneaky Pete’s and Lyric Hot Dog and Grill–had started Sam’s Super Samwiches on 18th Street in Homewood in 1978. For over 43 years, Graphos was a regular presence at the restaurant, whether it was working the grill or sweeping the floor.
In the days after Sam died, his family gathered together to talk about what would be next.
“Dad’s legacy as a businessman in Homewood didn’t end the way it should have,” son Ted Graphos said. “We just felt like we needed to keep it going and do things on our terms, not on anyone else’s.”
At the time of Sam’s death, the restaurant had been closed due to some electrical issues. The next month, their landlord decided not to renew their lease, forcing them to move. At the time, Ted said this would not affect their plans to continue their father’s storied business.
“We feel an obligation from the community to reopen,” Graphos said at the time. “We feel the obligation to my father’s legacy to reopen and that’s what we plan on doing.”
It would not be long before the family found a spot in SoHo Square, a little more than 300 yards from where they first started. After months of work, the restaurant reopened Monday.
On their first day, the people came out in droves. By lunchtime, the line was out the door, regulars and newcomers alike ready for a burger or “special dog,” fresh off the grill. Sue, Graphos’ wife of over 50 years, worked the room, talking to longtime friends while they ate.
“It sort of felt like a community,” Ted said. “You could even see the customers who haven’t seen one another in months. It was a really good day.”
Ted said several people helped to get the new location up and running. When supply chain issues kept certain equipment from arriving on time, SoHo Social stepped in, lending some of their own to them. The staff at Dave’s Pizza even offered some advice. Even the team at Yellowhammer Creative, a local print shop that helped with branding, helped get the décor of the space to mirror the best of what made the former location special.
Brett Forsyth, co-founder of Yellowhammer Creative, said working with the Graphos family was a passion project that came from his own relationship to the restaurant. His mother had been a regular since she was 18. His wife’s family is from Homewood. Not to mention, he had had his own share of their food over the years.
“Homewood is such a small, community-driven town,” Forsyth said. “Sam’s has been the hub of Homewood for over 50 years and it was imperative that it could be preserved and continue for another 50 years.”
Working with the Graphos, Forsyth suggested bringing back the wood paneling that had been a staple of the original Sam’s for years, as well as all the pictures that had adorned its walls.
“The pictures, and objects that graced the walls of Sam’s had all been burned into my memory and I just couldn’t imagine a world where there was a Sam’s that didn’t look or feel like Sam’s,” he said. “Luckily the Graphos Family welcomed us with open arms and were also eager to capture as much of the old restaurant as possible.”
With a strong opening day behind them, Ted feels the restaurant is set to last.
“Part of that is what we have built now allows for that community feel,” he said. “With more space, it allows for me people to talk to each other, to sit down and eat together.”
Homewood Mayor Patrick McCluskey said he’s thrilled that such a big part of the city’s history would continue on.
“Sam’s Super Samwiches is a Homewood icon, and if you listen to its loyal followers, downtown hasn’t been the same without it,” McCluskey said. “Now future generations can enjoy the same great food and close nit community feel that has always been associated with Sam’s.”
For now, Ted and his family are happy they can continue what Sam started.
“I’m glad people haven’t quit eating hotdogs and hamburgers,” he said.