Where Did the Greek-Themed Coffee Cup Come From?

Dan Bluestein, Wikipedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Dan Bluestein, Wikipedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 / Dan Bluestein, Wikipedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Leslie Buck’s back was against the wall in the early 1960s. As sales manager for the fledgling Sherri Cup Company, the Czechoslovakian immigrant desperately needed to get his foot in the door of New York City’s diners.

Where others might have wilted under the pressure, Buck took a step back and surveyed the market. When he realized that Greeks owned a disproportionate number of diners, he decided to play to this target. Why not create a cup that evoked the glory of ancient Greece? Buck took on the task himself. Working with the blue and white of the Greek flag, he adorned each side of the cup with an amphora (the famous Greek vase) and three steaming cups of coffee, along with the slogan we are happy to serve you in an ancient-looking typeface.

Greek-diner owners were delighted to play along. The Anthora cup—allegedly named for the way “amphora” sounded in Buck’s accent—became an instant hit and a New York City icon. Although Buck’s cup has inspired scores of Greek-themed knockoffs, it has remained a commercial force. At the Anthora’s peak in the early ’90s, Sherri was selling over four billion of the cups each year!

Want more amazing stories like this? Subscribe to mental_floss magazine today!