Peter A. Harris opened the Stanton Grill at 501 C St. NE in 1921, and ran it for 50 years. His customers called him "Pete" or "Pop," and some of them used to say he was such an honest man that he ought to run for President of the United States.
When he gave up the restaurant in the summer of 1973, he talked about raising vegetables and flowers in the garden of his home in Silver Spring, and that is what he did.The neighbors said his tomatoes were as big as grapefruits.
"Pete" Harris, whose name was Panagotis when he was a boy in Greece, died Sunday at Holy Cross Hospital. He was 81 and had been suffering from a diabetic condition.
"We worked hard," said his brother, Spiro Harris, 73, who worked in the Stanton Grill for many of those 50 years. "The work was harder in the end because we got older."
Indeed, "Pete" Harris worked seven days a week from the time he arrived in this country when he was 18 until he retired.
"My advice to the young people is to get an education," he said shortly before he closed the restaurant. "Don't go into the restaurant business. Get an education, then you can get a job with the government, you get good salary and vacation . . . This is too much work for the little man."
Despite these thoughts, he wanted to get back in the business in some form even in retirement, according to his family.
The Harris idea of a restaurant was a place where a family could eat. That is what the Stanton Grill was when it opened and that is what it remained, although business was light toward the end. That is also the kind of place the Lincoln Park Grill was. Mr. Harris opened the Lincoln Park in 1927, and closed it in 1958, a period in which his brother Spiro ran the Stanton Park.
"People used to eat more for lunch," "Pete" Harris said shortly before he retired. "Now they have a cheeseburger, a hamburger."
The Stanton park had tables and a counter with old-fashioned, high-backed, swivel chairs. Mr. Harris installed air conditioning in 1933. By the time he closed in 1973, the air conditioning leaked a little and every little while he would mop the water from the spotless marble floor.
"This is how I started and this is how I end up," he said of the mopping.
In addition to his regular work, Mr. Harris was achieve in raising funds for Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church at 16th and Upshur Streets NW. He helped select the present site of the church when it had to move from 6th and C Streets SW.
He also saw to it that his children learned to speak Greek and to observe the customs of his homeland.
The space once occupied by the Stanton Grill is now a real estate office. The place where the Lincoln Park Grill was located is now a laundromat.
In addition to his brother Spiro, of Washington, Mr. Harris's survivors include his wife, Katherine, of the home in Silver Spring; three children. Anthony, also of the home, and Mary Harris and Helen Lyngas, of Silver Spring; another brother, Gus, who lives in Greece, and three grandchildren.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the building fund of Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church.