PETERSBURG, Va. -- It will be a bittersweet weekend for the family behind Alexander's restaurant in Petersburg. After decades of serving Greek food to its loyal customers, the Bank Street restaurant will close for good on Saturday.
The success of Alexander's owner Spiros Georgogianis proves you can come to America to not only start a new life but also build a successful business through hard work and determination.
"I feel horrible," Georgogianis said about his emotional decision to close. "Since I announced it last Thursday, people behind the counter come in the kitchen and hug you and kiss you and cry. It hasn't been good."
Spiros, 72 remains a humble man who in 1972 immigrated from Greece to the United States. He moved to Northern Virginia, then to North Carolina.
He made his way to Petersburg in 1997 where, just a few years later, he opened Alexander's.
"I've been here 45 years and I don't think I've ever worked less than 70 to 75 hours a week," Georgogianis said.
Those long workdays helped him build an iconic restaurant.
"Most of the dishes I do serve are really my creation, let's put it that way. The recipes and all that I worked over the years," Georgogianis said. "Everything has an almost Greek flair to it."
As the years turned into decades, something happened to the name of the restaurant.
"Probably 50 percent of the people, I don't exaggerate, they don't say, we go to Alexander's, they say we go to Spiros," Georgogianis said.
No matter what people call it, Spiros doesn't refer to those who eat there as his customers.
"I have all friends and family, I don't have a customer. Nobody comes here all those years and feels like a customer," Georgogianis said.
Now with a finite amount of time for the door to be open, those "friends" who eat there are making the most of the time they have left.
"Until Saturday, I plan on coming here every day for lunch until they close," Jarvis Stringfield, one long-time customer, said.
"I am planning on coming here every day, tomorrow night, we're going to be here with some friends and then we're going to just continue on to Saturday and I'm going to order different things on the menu, all of my favorites," Kay Freeman, another loyal customer, said.
Helping keep the business running smoothly throughout the years has been Spiros' brother Bill and his wife Lynn.
Spiros said that once the doors close for good, he is going to be sure to take some well-deserved rest.
"Right now, I'm gonna take off for a couple of months. I'm gonna spend some time with my wife because that's all we've been doing is working," Georgogianis said.
After Saturday's business is through, there will be no more to-go orders, no more Grill and Chill, no more homemade desserts, and no more long lines to get inside.
"I don't know how they will replace it, but I don't think they can replace it, to be honest," Stringfrield said.
While the doors may be closed, the memories of eating at the restaurant will remain as vivid as the Greek flair to the food.
Spiro, Lynn, and Bill will have their own memories of a job well done, knowing they spent decades making people happy, and in turn, knowing the people who ate here will always be family.
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