Gus Vlahavas, the long-time owner of beloved Tom’s Restaurant on Washington Avenue, has died at the age of 76 after undergoing treatment for respiratory issues, The New York Times reports.
Tom’s Restaurant has become an institution in the neighborhood for the eatery’s welcoming atmosphere and all-day breakfast menu, serving lime rickeys and pancakes. Gus was well-known for serving snacks and coffee to customers waiting in long lines.
Tom’s was first opened by Gus’s paternal grandfather, Constantin Vlahavas, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Sterling Place in 1936 as an ice-cream parlor under the name Lewnes, which he thought would appeal to Irish customers. Constantin emigrated from Greece and settled in Brooklyn.
Constantin’s grandson and namesake Constantin Vlahavas, who became known as Gus Vlahavas in America, was born on October 24, 1938 in western Greece. Gus’s father, Themistocle Vlahavas, joined his father Constantin in Brooklyn afterwards. Themistocle would be known as Tom in Brooklyn.
Gus was 9 years old when the Vlahavas family was reunited in Brooklyn. He immediately started working at the restaurant. Gus’s grandfather renamed the restaurant from Lewnes to Tom’s, in honor of his son’s heroism during the World War II that had him wounded in the Philippines.
With a major in history, Gus Vlahavas graduated from Brooklyn College and had a teaching career at Midwood High School in Brooklyn. But Gus preferred to work at Tom’s and stayed there for good. He ran the restaurant and entertained customers while his father cooked. Gus passed the day-to-day management responsibilities of the restaurant to other family members in 2009, but still made efforts to be there.
Gus Vlahavas is survived by his 93-year-old mother who still works over the cash register, his wife of 50 years, three children, three grandchildren, and his brother.