Gregory C. Papalexis of Norwood, whose juicy Sabrett hot dogs are as much a part of the New York City scene as soft pretzels and yellow cabs, died Friday. He was 86.
Mr. Papalexis was president, CEO and chairman of Englewood-based Marathon Enterprises Inc., a supplier of hot dogs, buns, onion sauce and other foodstuffs and the owner of the Sabrett trademark.
Sabrett franks are sold nationally, but no more famously than on the streets of New York, from stainless-steel pushcarts with blue-and-yellow umbrellas. The privately held Marathon Enterprises also supplies franks to Papaya King and Gray's Papaya restaurants, among others, and in all sells more than 35 million pounds of hot dogs a year.
Mr. Papalexis was "the single biggest hot dog lover in the world," said his son-in-law, Mark Rosen, Marathon Enterprises' vice president of sales.
The baker's son grew up next door to a hot dog factory in upper Manhattan. He received a bachelor of science degree in industrial relations from New York University in 1948, then started in the food business.
With a $2,500 GI loan, Mr. Papalexis bought his father's bankrupt bakery and sold rolls to clients throughout New York City. He made deliveries in a Cadillac because it had the biggest trunk.
He branched into hot dogs and manufactured a pushcart brand called House O' Weenies. He formed Marathon Enterprises in 1964 and acquired a series of competitors, including Sabrett Food Products in 1989.
Until retiring two years ago, Mr. Papalexis was more often at his manufacturing operations in the Bronx than at corporate headquarters off Route 4. He was a stickler who "controlled every frankfurter that went out on the streets," his son-in-law said.
Mr. Papalexis' daughter, Nikki Rosen, also a company executive, said her father laser-focused on the buns.
"His were light, airy and fluffy," she said.
Mr. Papalexis' philosophy: If customers fill up on the bun, they won't have room for a second (or third) hot dog.
As for his own consumption, Mr. Papalexis enjoyed Sabrett beef franks four or five days a week, his daughter and son-in-law said. And Mark Rosen said his father-in-law was such a hot dog lover that franks-and-beans casserole was part of the family's Christmas table.
Mr. Papalexis, a 43-year resident of Bergen County, was a benefactor of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Theologian in Tenafly, and was bestowed the title of Archon Exarchos for his service and philanthropy.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Helen; his children, Chris Papalexis of Montvale, Vicki Venturini of Closter and Nikki Rosen of Tenafly; two sisters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by a daughter, Joan.
Visiting is 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today mondayat Barrett Funeral Home, Tenafly. The funeral service will be Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Saint John the Theologian.
Published in The Record/Herald News on Nov. 21, 2011