Jim Makarounis, owner and namesake of iconic Portland jazz club Jimmy Mak's, has died. He was 53.
As first reported by Oregon Music News, Makarounis, who had been battling larynx cancer the past few years, passed away about 24 hours after his club closed permanently.
Makarounis opened Jimmy Mak's in Northwest Portland in 1996, where it quickly became one of the West Coast's premier hubs for live jazz. It relocated to a new building across the street from its original Pearl District location in 2006. Following the sale of the building in February, another relocation was planned for next year, but those plans were scuttled due to Makarounis' failing health, and the venue shuttered for good following a New Year's Eve concert.
While his name was synonymous with the club, and thus with Portland's jazz scene, Makarounis, a saxophone player, rarely appeared in front of Jimmy Mak's famous red velvet curtain himself—with at least one notable exception, as he discussed in a 2011 Willamette Week profile:
Willamette Week: The only time I’ve ever seen you onstage here is when Martha Reeves pulled you up before singing the Vandellas’ “Jimmy Mack.”
Makarounis: Yeah, that was great. The funny part was that I went to get her at the airport, and we were having some problems finding each other, and then we literally ran into each other at the door. And she says “Jimmy?” And I say, “Yeah.” And she says, “Jimmy Mak, I’ve been looking for you for 30 years!”