The importance of volunteering for the community, authentic food experiences, and why animals matter were the key elements of this month’s One on One conversation between restaurateur John Krontiras and Birmingham Humane Society CEO Allison Black Cornelius.
Nabeel’s has been in business for 22 years, becoming a Homewood institution and a destination for wonderful food and great community spirit. Krontiras and his wife, Ottavia, created the café and market to build a place in Birmingham with an Old World feel that celebrates family, tradition, and community. They believed very strongly that there should be a place in America for a neighborhood restaurant, much as they had in their hometowns of Patras in Southern Greece and Trieste in northern Italy. There the whole family could browse in leisure, enjoy a cup of coffee or a cold beverage, shop for the items they desired, and be warmly treated by the shop owner as a person—not just another ticket passing through the checkout stand.
Krontiras had lost his job as an executive in marketing and information systems with a large local company and decided to purchase Nabeel’s and create a food institution in Birmingham. Authenticity and consistency are the most important things in the restaurant business, according to Krontiras. “If you work hard and put your mind to it, no matter what kind of job you do, you will succeed,” he says.
Krontiras’ son Anthony is now running the business day to day, allowing his dad more time to spend working in the community. “The community has always helped us and we need to help the community,” Krontiras says. He currently serves on the Homewood Library Foundation and the Homewood Police Foundation boards and has served for several years on the Homewood Planning Commission and the Zoning Board.
In addition to his work in the community, Krontiras enjoys spending time with his six grandchildren, painting and gardening. He and Ottavia will celebrate 50 years of marriage this September with their children: Madeline Bader, Anthony, and Dr. Helen Krontiras Anderson.
Cornelius is president and CEO of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. She began working for the humane society in September of 2014 and since that time has been instrumental in GBHS winning the contract to take over Animal Care and Control for Jefferson County and in the collaboration between GBHS, Alabama Shelter Veterinarians (ASV), and Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“We are at a pivotal point in the movement concerned with the humane treatment of people and animals. We have an opportunity to move the needle and solve the growing epidemic of overpopulation of dogs and cats,” Cornelius says. “Our public-private partnership with Auburn University and ASV to create a national model for shelter medicine that benefits injured, stray, and sick animals is historic. My excitement for this project and its impact made this decision easy.”
Cornelius brings a wealth of expertise to GBHS, including consulting, project management, and fundraising services to government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and the nonprofit sector. Cornelius has trained more than 1,000 nonprofit boards and raised more than $30 million for charity through her public presentations.
Cornelius received her public policy, nonprofit, governance, and leadership education at the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative and completed Advanced Board Consulting at BoardSource.
The Greater Birmingham Humane Society has been serving abused and abandoned pets in this city since 1883. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society was one of the first humane societies in the United States. Today, the GBHS cares for nearly 9,000 animals a year.