The landmarked attraction was purchased in 1983 by Constantinos Dionysios Vourderis, a Greek immigrant and entrepreneur.
After returning from serving in World War II, Vourderis started off as a hot dog and ice cream vendor on the Coney Island boardwalk. After working his way up to operating a boardwalk restaurant and kiddie park, he finally achieved his lifelong dream of owning the Wonder Wheel.
“He came here with nothing in his pocket, served in World War II and opened his business,” said Deno Vourderis, the elder Vourderis’s grandson. “My family is what it is today because of that immigrant story.”
Vourderis, 38, now cares for the Wonder Wheel alongside his father, uncle and cousins. He said he loves working with his family members, whom he described as “each other’s best friends.”
“I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything,” he said. “My family and I get along so well.
“If there’s something we disagree with, we talk about it,” he added. “It’s all about communication, and we have great communication.”
Vourderis loves New York City, a place where people and businesses of different ethnicities can get along and thrive together.
Specifically, he champions Coney Island, which he said is a place that “everybody went to” and was treated equally. Even in 1920, when the Wonder Wheel was first built, people of all backgrounds enjoyed the attraction.
“You see everybody standing in line together,” Vourderis said, “everybody getting on to the ferris wheel together.
“I like to say we’re an island of renegades that constantly pushes this country toward that more perfect union,” he added. “I’m proud of that legacy, so I never want to leave.”