1922 Article - Story of Greek Immigrants Rise to the Top - Rolles and Sempeles - Evening News, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The Evening News 
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
23 June 1922


The "Sunset Confectionery," a new soda fountain and confectionery store, will open Saturday afternoon, June 24, at 1 o'clock, but will be open for inspection to the public this evening at 8 o'clock.

An orchestra will furnish music, and souvenirs of small boxes of candy and a flower will be given to all visitors.  The store is located on the northeast corner of Market and Second streets.

The building has been under a course of re-modeling for some time, and every modern convenience has been installed to insure satisfaction and comfort for the public.  In connection with the soda fountain and confectionery business, light lunches will be served at all times.  This new store will be the last word in the soda business and will be one of the city's most up-to-date establishments.  It will be one of those have-a-look-an-be-convinced stores, and will be open for business Saturday at 1 o'clock.

Michael Rolles and James Sempeles, the owners of this new confectionery store, now conduct the Greek-American and the Palace soda fountains, of which they are part owners.

The two present stores will be conducted as heretofore, the opening of the new store on the Square in nowise interfering with them.

The new store will have a room in which light lunches and drinks will be served, while in another section of the building a confectionery store will be maintained.  A soda fountain will be installed in the part of the storeroom occupied by the confectionery part of the business.  Special tables will be reserved for ladies.  The two owners will not only have service similar to that at the other two stores now being conducted by them in the city, but will specialize in quick service at the lunch counter and superior quality of goods handled.

Inspiring Growth

The growth of the business conducted by the two men is a tale that might have inspired Alger to write "Work or Win" or some other of his - great - men - from - street-boys stories.  Anyway the new store, which is the third in Harrisburg owned and controlled by Sempeles and Rolles, is the outcome of a life of industrious and ambitious labors and one that merits credit.

One of the proprietors, Mr. Rolles, came to America about twenty-two years ago, landing on the shores of his land of promise full of hopes but empty of pocketbook.  Rolles' stay in America was all by mistake, so he says.  He said at the age of 16 he had finished school and was living with his parents, two sisters and two brothers at Sparta.  One brother had already come to America about three years before, and was then located in Harrisburg.  After Michael had finished school, he decided to have a look at the wonderful America, so decided to board a ship and take a little trip around the world, spending some time in America.  He stated that he intended to come to Harrisburg after landing in America to visit his brother, who was then selling candy at the markets here.

Three Brothers Here

He has three brothers, all of them now in America, and two sisters.  The two sisters are now married and are living in Greece.  After Michael came to America and stayed, the other two brothers, thrilled at the success pictured by their two kinsmen in their letters to the home folk, decided to take a try at the land of golden opportunities, and so they, too, came to America.  George, Peter and Michael are located in Harrisburg, and the other brother, Ross, is in business for himself in Altoona.  The parents are both dead, having died since Michael's arrival in this country in 1900.

Having made up his mind to visit America, Michael said he collected what money he had, which was very little, and boarded an ocean liner for America.  He landed at New York, and, after passing through all of the formalities of the incoming immigrant, set foot on America, the land of hopes and promises.

He did not stop in New York but came straight to Harrisburg and after meeting his brother here, decided to stay here a while and replenish his rapidly dwindling pocketbook.  He started in business with his brother here in Harrisburg, selling hard candy in the various markets of the city.  He and his brother had a stall in the Broad street and Chestnut markets and sold candy and fruit for more than a year before opening a business house of their own.  George had been selling candy in the city markets for about two years before Mike arrived in this country from Greece.  After about a year of the candy selling in the city markets, the two brothers decided to open up at some permanent location in Harrisburg.  Mike and his brother were both well pleased with the business prospects in the town and it was at this time that the younger brother decided to remain in this country for some time and to enter upon a business career here.

Came Here in 1900

Mike arrived in America during the year of 1900 and late in the Summer of 1901, he and his brother opened the Greek-American at its present location, 409 Market street.  The room in which they opened their store was in an unimposing building and the storeroom, proper,  was in small quarters, sixteen feet front by twenty-five feet deep.  Fox six years the two brothers conducted their business in this one small room and in those six years had done enough business to warrant their remodeling and enlarging the storeroom and their business.

The store was opened in 1901 as a soft drink and confectionery establishment.  Candy and soda-water was the stock in trade carried.  In 1907, when the store room was enlarged and a second story added to the structure, a light lunch counter was added to the growing business.

In 1911, the Palace, a soda fountain and confectionery store, was opened, at its present location, 225 Market street.  James Sempeles, a new arrival in town at that time, was taken into this new store as a partner.  The store at that time was the same size as at the present time.  A light lunch counter was added to the new business until the Summer of 1920.  Since that time, additional help has been added and today a large number of the city's working people lunch at The Palace during the noon hour.

Had One Store Ten Years

For ten years the two brothers conducted one store, enlarging and remodeling the building during that time.  After ten years, a second store was opened and now after twenty-one years of business experience in Harrisburg, a third establishment of the nature of the other two stores will be open for business tomorrow morning.  Starting with nothing but a determination to win, Mike Rolles, after a career of twenty-one years in America, is today the part owner and proprietor of three soda fountains and confectionery stores in the city and has the satisfaction of knowing he is a successful business man.

Mike said he is determined to make America his home.  Since his arrival in this country in 1900, he had returned to his native Greece but once, and after a stay of fourteen months he stated that he became homesick for America and decided to make this country his home.

He is now a naturalized American citizen.  So are his three brothers.  Mike had taken out his first papers when he took his only trip to Greece.  That was in 1911.  After becoming acclimated to the modern business and social conditions in this country, he was not satisfied with his native health and returned to America, his adopted native land.  He has been a citizen of the United States for ten years.  In 1913 he married a Greek woman from Carlisle and since that time has been residing in Harrisburg with his family.  He is the father of one son, an only child.

Worked in New York

His brother, George, came to America in 1896 and landed in New York.  He worked in that city for several months and then moved to Philadelphia, but did not stay in that city and later started in business in Baltimore.  Like the other two towns, Baltimore proved to be unsatisfactory, and after about two years in America, George came to Harrisburg and permanently located here.  He had been in Harrisburg nearly two years when Mike arrived in this country from Greece.  George is one of the part owners of the Palace and the Greek-American but does not have any interest in the new store, the "Sunset Confectionery."

Mike will retain his partnership in both the Greek-American and The Palace.  He has an interest in all three stores, while his bother is part owner of the two present establishments.  Sempeles, one of the part owners of the new store, has no interest in the Greek-American but is one of the proprietors of The Palace.

Sempeles' Rise Rapid

James Sempeles, 43 years old, the other proprietor of the Sunset Confectionery, is also a partner in The Palace, on Market street.  Sempeles, like Rolles, has made a rapid rise in this country, and through hard work and thrifty methods has made a success of the soda water and confectionery business.  He came to America in 1904, and landed in New York.  After remaining in that city for some time, selling candy and in other businesses, he removed to Philadelphia and stayed in that city for a year.  He then went to Baltimore, where he conducted a candy business.  He later went to Hagerstown and conducted the Sempeles Brothers Candy Store for several years.  From Hagerstown he came to Harrisburg.

He came to this country in 1904, and after seven years started in business in this city.  In 1911, he purchased a share in The Palace, and acted as manager of the Greek-American, in which capacity he still acts.  He is not a part owner of the Greek-American.

Sempeles is a cousin of Rolles, and came to America to make his fortune in 1904, when he was only 14 years old.  He was alone when he reached this country and fought his way to the top.  He had an older brother in America.  Sempeles is married, is now a naturalized American citizen and intends to make America his home.