In 1970, a man came to America, one of many at the time looking for a better life. A few years later, he started his path to the American dream, starting a small diner on Route 1 in Branford. 25 years later, that diner, now a modern day icon of our town, still stands, a tremendous success and an integral part of Branford life.
John Sousoulas, the owner of the Parthenon diner, looks back fondly on his father, who used to sit in a booth close to the front door, greeting guests and always available for a conversation. Today John follows in his footsteps, as himself being as much of an icon as the walls of his diner are. The great majority of those visiting the restaurant greet him by name and with a smile, the loyal regulars that appreciate the quality and service John stands for.
In this economic climate, any business marking 25 years of success is a tremendous accomplishment. Parthenon has gone beyond simply surviving, it has shown steady growth, opening a second location in Old Saybrook and recently remodeling the flagship Branford location. Sousoulas points to the Branford people as the main reason. "Once this towns trusts you, they are extremely loyal," he states regarding his customers. The prices at the diner remain reasonable, and the quality remains high, building that trust. (Full disclosure: this author is a regular, especially for a late breakfast. 3 eggs over and Canadian bacon.)
The diner has seen its fair share of celebrities and politicians. Joe Lieberman stopped there on a statewide diner tour during a campaign. Gwenyth Paltrow and Ben Affleck dined in a booth and signed the check, now a keepsake. Basketball player Stephon Marbury visited. Recently, Cindy Cartier, a candidate for the state legislature, held her kickoff event in the remodeled dining section.
Also added for events was a large screen for projections, including TV, something that made the Parthenon a destination for watching the recently completed World Cup. The goal is that the Diner become more than just an eating place but a true meeting place, hosting town events and gatherings. As anyone visiting can see, it presents the atmosphere, quality food and low prices to support such an endeavor.
Sousoulas currently runs the diner with the help of his 13 year old son, Kostas. What is unknown is if one day Kostas will be greeting patrons at the door as the owner/operator of the Parthenon. "Right now I don't know," tells John. "He wants to work here, he wants to be a doctor, and he wants to be an actor." For the time being, we will have to give the 13 year old time to work those decision out.
To celebrate 25 years, the Branford chamber of Commerce will hold an event at the Parthenon Wednesday morning, and later in the afternoon, there will be live entertainment and a cookout.
John father passed away just a few months after Kostas was born, but he was happy to see the potential successor in place. In the remodel, the large booth John's father once sat in is gone, but is something John wants to bring back. When asked what his father would think if he were to see the diner today, John remained quiet for a few seconds. Looking up, he beamed. "He trusted me to take over. I think he would be extremely proud."
No doubt about it.