Coney Island icon honored with street co-naming

Coney island
Family members hold up the new street sign.
The Vourderis family

The matriarch of Coney Island’s iconic Wonder Wheel Park will live forever, as Theodora Lula Vourderis was honored with the co-naming of a local street.  

Lula helped her husband, Deno, start a hot dog pushcart business on the boardwalk in the 1970s, and their island cuisine quickly gained popularity — their cart soon became a full snack bar where Lula worked behind the counters for over 20 years serving guests. 

The couple eventually expanded and purchased the park in the late 1970s, turning it into Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, where four generations of Vourderis family members have run it ever since. 

Now, the intersection of W. 12th Street and Riegelmann Boardwalk will forever be known as “Theodora Lula Vourderis Way.”

Theodora Lula Vourderis working behind the counter.The Vourderis family

According to her son Dennis, who now co-owns the park with his brother, Steve, their mother leaves behind a legacy of compassion towards the homeless and underprivileged. 

“She had a relationship with some of the can collectors and some of the guys that used to come around the boardwalk and [ask] for food,” said Dennis Vourderis. “She remembered her days when she had no food. In her early years growing up in Greece when the Nazis were occupying Greece, she had nothing to eat but bread and water at times. She remembered the tough times and wanted to help.”

Dennis added that the tribute is a lovely way to remember their mother.

“It’s an honor and we’re very proud of that. Dad’s name is up on the other side on West 12th street so now both their names are up which is a double honor,” said Dennis.

Lula and her family came from Greece and originally had very little to start their new life with.

“They were invaded by the Nazi regime and they faced a very uncertain future. She came here with her family with nothing, no money but [a lot] of dreams for her family,” said area Councilmember Mark Treyger. “[She] built a legacy from scratch really, from nothing but hardwork and determination.”

Many gathered on the boardwalk to watch the ceremony including Coney Island residents, community leaders and members of the Vourderis family.

“It was a very moving tribute to an icon in our community. Someone who I would call a pillar in Coney Island,” said Treyger. 

The Vourderis family plans to preserve their matriarch’s memory by continuing traditions like the “Blessing of the Rides,” where they invite children from the Sea N Salt Mission to enjoy a free day in the park.