It wasn’t too many years ago, certainly into the 21st century, that your paper placemat at the Mayflower Café still identified Cape Cod as the “Summer Home of President Kennedy.” Things are like that at the Mayflower; suspended pleasantly in time, and great fun for that reason. You’re seated in deep booths, surrounded by Nancy Whorf’s murals and Jake Spencer’s caricatures, and you can still get chewy dinner rolls and hot Indian pudding à la mode. By the time John F. Kennedy was elected president, the Mayflower had already been in business 32 years. And it has just kept on going. It is today — as it was in 1929 — owned and run by the Janoplis family, which explains the presence of a Greek flag and a Tsolias figurine at the bar.
Michael “Mike” Janoplis Sr. (±1890-1979) and his younger brother Samuel Janoplis (±1895-1994) were the founders and original operators of the Mayflower. Mike took over the business entirely in 1954 — Provincetown residents referred to the Mayflower simply as “Mike’s” — and ran the place until 1962, when he sold it to his sons, Michael Janoplis Jr. (1931-2008) and Samuel S. Janoplis (b 1937). The Mayflower is currently owned and operated by Michael Jr.’s children, Donna Hough (b 1957) and Darin Janoplis (b 1967), and their cousin, Michael Janoplis.
Mike, the founder, came to this country from Greece in 1908, worked on rebuilding rail beds and erecting power poles, enlisted in the Army in 1918 and stopped by Provincetown for a visit in 1919. Nick Melitopolous offered him a job in his fruit, candy and ice cream stand at Commercial and Ryder, in a building that was torn down to accommodate the widening of Ryder Street (perhaps 266 Commercial Street).
After the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad discontinued freight service all the way to Railroad Wharf, the right-of-way on Standish Street, directly alongside Lewis’ New York Store, was made available for development. Janoplis built the Blue Moon Café at 310 Commercial Street.
The official history of the Mayflower, adapted from an article written by John Bell (one of the local figures caricatured by Spencer) places construction of the restaurant in the winter of 1929-1930. But a contemporary clipping in The Advocate would seem to indicate the construction took place in late 1931.
Besides its home cooking, the Mayflower is known for its murals of waterfront scenes and for its caricatures; a local version of Sardi’s. The murals are by Nancy Whorf (1930-2009). “The story was that she did those for grocery money one winter when her husband, who was a fisherman, was finding that the fishing wasn’t too good,” Hough told me in 2009. The caricatures by Jake Spencer (1899-1968) were largely done in the late 1940s and 1950s. As far as the family knew in 2009, Hough said, only one of the subjects — Samuel S. Janoplis — was still living.