JOHN BITOVE Sr.

Bitove the Family Man
Many exceptional men have had humble roots - and behind them, a hard-working, closeknit family forming the bedrock on which their accomplishments have been built. John Bitove Sr. is such a man, whose success can be traced back to the strong values of the family and community that forged his Canadian-Macedonian heritage.

John Bitove was born in Toronto's east end in 1928. His father Nicholas and mother Vana immigrated to Canada in 1919 from Gabresh, a village located in Aegean Macedonia.

John had a happy childhood in Canada, attending Bruce Public School and then Danforth Tech in the '30's and early '40's. As a young man, he displayed an energy and enthusiasm that would motivate him throughout his life. John was actively involved in many community activities, including organizing sports clubs and raising funds to build recreation centres.

Like most Canadian boys, John had a passion for hockey. He was a top athlete, playing on many city and provincial championship teams in hockey, baseball and football.

A convention in Indianapolis, Indiana turned out to be a memorable occasion for John. It was there that he met his wife Dotsa, whom he married in 1949 at Toronto's St.George Macedonian Orthodox Church, after a three year courtship.

John and Dotsa have five children, Vonna, Tom, Nick, John Jr. and Jordan. They have also been graced with twelve grandchildren.

Devoted husband, father and grandfather, John's rich family life has been the constant inspiration behind the success of his family business.

Bitove the Businessman
Today, John Bitove is Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Chief Executive Officer of The Bitove Corporation, a major Canadian food service and hospitality company with operations including catering, restaurants and other hospitality services employing over 1,200 people. The keen young man has come a long way from Toronto's East End.

John first entered the business world as an apprentice to his father, who ran a small butcher shop on Queen Street East. In 1949, at the age of 21, John opened his first restaurant on Avenue Road. The eleven stool restaurant, called The Java Shoppe, expanded into a chain of five, family-oriented restaurants under the same name. John had
found his niche in the food-service industry, building an empire with his commitment to quality and his talent for market appeal.

In the early 1960's, John expanded his interests into a restaurant fixtures business. Through this enterprise, he developed, financed and in some cases operated a number of restaurants in the greater Toronto area and across Canada.

Throughout the '60's John's flair for innovation made an impact on the Toronto dining scene. He was the first to introduce to the Toronto area supper club dining with the opening of familiar names like the Gaslight Tavern and Mr. Tony's in Yorkville, Cava Bob on Yonge Street, the Mississippi Belle in Don Mills and Diamond Jim's in Hamilton.

John sold his fixtures business in 1969 and acquired the Canadian franchise rights to Big Boy Family Restaurants. Over the next ten years, the Big Boy chain developed 32 restaurants in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. In 1979, he sold the Canadian franchise rights to Elias Brothers Restaurants of Warren, Michigan.

The early 1980's was a time of expansion and diversification in Bitove's interest. He was involved in the exploration and development of oil and gas properties in southern Texas. In 1983, John and his children founded York County Quality Foods Ltd., a company which tendered successfully on the food and beverage concessions at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Today, Bitove Corp. controls the concessions at all three terminals.

One of Bitove's biggest coups was the formation of CitiDome Corporation in 1986, which acquired the vending rights at Toronto's then, brand-new SkyDome. York County Quality Foods and CitiDome Corp. were susequently amalgamated to form The Bitove Corporation in 1987.

Bitove formed the "Great Moments in Catering Division" in 1991, which has catered such large, outdoor sporting events like Polo For Heart in Gormley, Ontario, the Sun Life National Tennis Championships, and the Toronto Molson Indy. Its client list includes blue chip companies like Coca Cola, Labatt, IBM, Sony, Seagram, Xerox and Cadillac Fairview. Other prestigious events that Great Moments in Catering has been involved with includes the Inaugural Benefit Performance of Miss Saigon at the Princess of Wales Teater.

On the wave of such high profile successes, the Bitove family and hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky, formed a partnership in 1992/93, opening Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant on Blue Jays Way.

The year 1993 also marked another of Bitove's contributions to the development of professional sport in Toronto. Bitove Investments Inc., partnered with Standard Broadcasting and The Bank of Nova Scotia, was awarded an NBA franchise for Toronto. The Toronto Raptors opening game is scheduled for November 3, 1995.

The Bitove empire has been behind many innovative business ventures during the last three years. In 1993, the Bitove Corporation created a new division to develop an exciting concept in Public Health Care food services. The concept will enable "user" hospitals to become kitchenless, receiving patient and non-patient food services directly from a remot location. The first hospitals to utilize this streamlined approach are the Toronto Hospital's two divisions - Toronto General and Toronto Western, with a total of 1,000 beds. Bitove is committed to developing this new concept throughout North America.

Further extending his food service interests in 1994, Bitove obtained the contract to provide passenger meals to VIA Rail Canada's, VIA-1 first class trains origination out of Toronto's Union Station.

Bitove the Philanthropist
Despite the demands of family and a business empire, John Bitove has always managed to find time to give something back to his community. Former Toronto Mayor June Rowlands describes him as, "extremely generous and very civic minded", a businessman with heart. His philanthropic achievements include :

  • Distinguished member of the Toronto General Hospital, the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the University of Western Ontario
  • Former director of the Royal Ontario Museum
  • Recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation (1992).
  • Fellow of the Ontario Hostelry Institute (1991)
  • Chairman of ProAction (1990)
  • Member of the Order of Canada (1989)
  • Ontario chairman of the British Commonwealth Games (1986)
  • Honorable Citizen of Metropolitan Toronto (1979)
  • Member in the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science
  • Mason of King Solomon's Lodge and a founder of the Armour Heights Rotary Club
  • Chairman of the fundraising dinner for the Toronto General Hospital, Cardiac Care Unit
  • Founder and chairman of the Board of Canadian Macedonian Place, a senior citizen's complex
  • Bitove has provided assistance in the planning and building of other senior citizen homes across Toronto. He also supports the North York Senior Citizens Recreational Centre
  • He sponsored and assisted several organ recipients to Canada for successful transplants
  • Together with Dennis Timbrell and through the Salvation Army, Bitove has prpared over 50,000 Christmas baskets for the needy
  • He convinced the University of Toronto for the need of a Macedonian language program and was the founding supporter
  • He has always been supportive of building Macedonian Orthodox Churches. Recently, he helped in the
    establishment of St. Mary's in Cambridge and in supporting St. Ilija in Mississauga
  • He has also provided support to the Canadian Italian Soccer League, and organized and arranged fundraising for projects like the recreation centre in Woodgreen - East Toronto. In the 1950's, Bitove donated proceeds from his five restaurants to the Hurricane Relief Fund
  • Recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation (1992)
  • Fellow of the Ontario Hostelry Institute (1991)
  • Chairman of ProAction (1990)
  • Member of the Order of Canada (1989)
  • Ontario chairman of the British Commonwealth Games (1986)
  • Honorable Citizen of Metropolitan Toronto (1979)
  • Member in the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science. Mason of King Solomon's Lodge and a founder of the Armour Heights Rotary Club
  • Chairman of the fundraising dinner for the Toronto General Hospital, Cardiac Care Unit
  • Founder and chairman of the Board of Canadian Macedonian Place, a senior citizen's complex.
  • Bitove has provided assistance in the planning and building of other senior citizen homes across Toronto. He also supports the North York Senior Citizens Recreational Centre
  • He sponsored and assisted several organ recipients to Canada for successful transplants
  • Together with Dennis Timbrell and through the Salvation Army, Bitove has prpared over 50,000 Christmas baskets for the needy
  • He convinced the University of Toronto for the need of a Macedonian language program and was the founding supporter
  • He has always been supportive of building Macedonian Orthodox Churches. Recently, he helped in the establishment of St. Mary's in Cambridge and in supporting St. Ilija in Mississauga.
  • He has also provided support to the Canadian Italian Soccer League, and organized and arranged fundraising for projects like the recreation centre in Woodgreen - East Toronto
  • In the 1950's, Bitove donated proceeds from his five restaurants to the Hurricane Relief Fund

The generosity of John Bitove has spanned his entire career, and has reflected a cross-cultural goodwill and cooperation that makes Canada's ethnic mosaic an example to the world.

Bitove the Political Activist
Family, business and philanthropy would be more than enough to fill one lifetime. But John Bitove's remarkable energy has also taken him into the political arena.

Among his many involvements and contributions to his country, John Bitove has always been actively interested in the political forces that have shaped his world. Though he thinks of himself as a Canadian first, Bitove has never forgotten the wider context of his life, underscored by his Macedonian heritage.

Bitove is a respected leader of the Canadian Macedonian community in Toronto, remaining committed throughout his life to helping Macedonians living in Toronto and around the world. He has served as a guiding force in the recognition of the Macedonian people, furthering humanitarian causes in Aegeam Macedonia and throughout the globe.

As recent chairman of the Canadian Macedonian Federation and the Macedonian World Congress, Bitove worked relentlessly behind the scenes, devoting countless hours lobbying the Canadian and U.S. governments as well as other countries to recognize the fledgling Republic of Macedonia.

Through the Canadian Macedonian Federation, he assisted in acquiring medical equipment and medicine for the Republic of Macedonia. He organized the SkyDome Medicine for Macedonia campaign, and with the help of the Macedonian community, raised several hundred thousands of dollars which were used to buy medicine for the Republic. His contributions abroad also included assisting the reorganization of Skopje, Macedonia after the massive earthquake of 1963.

On the Canadian front, Bitove was a founder of Canadian Maceodnian Place for senior citizens. Over the years, he has sponsored more than 150 displaced persons from the Balkans, making it possible for them to immigrate to Canada. He arranged food, clothing and shelter until they could become self-sufficient contributing members of their new country.

His Work Continues Today
John Bitove Sr.'s many accomplishments are recognized by his family, peers and both the local and international communities. An exemplary family man, businessman and Macedonian-Canadian, he is truly a man for all seasons.