Many of you remember Pete Santrizos, as he is pictured in the Edina Sun photo (dated Nov. 6, 1973) below. Pete held court behind the counter of the Sunnyside and France business and knew every customer, even if they had visited only once before. "His memory is terrific," reporter Debbie Pint wrote. "When someone walks in, he can usually recall their name, who they married, what they're doing."
The photo was taken after Pete had run the business for 32 years, taking over the struggling new restaurant on Nov. 1, 1941. At that point, he had no plans of closing, but his customers urged the local newspaper to write about the grandfatherly man who dispensed wisdom behind the counter as well as juicy hamburgers.
See the menu boards on the wall behind Pete? Here's one for those famous burgers ("hamburger steak") saved by the family:
Pete pointed out that in all the years that he ran the Convention, the only thing that changed were the prices. Even now, while the ownership has changed, the Convention's decor has changed little from when Pete bought the Convention in 1941 with a $200 loan from a relative.
Here Pete is pictured about the same time he bought the Morningside restaurant.
Pete came a long way from a lonely 15-year-old boy immigrating to the United States without his family in 1911. He started in the restaurant business washing dishes and sent money back home to his parents in Greece.
His wife Christine (below) was his life partner as well as his business partner, who worked in the kitchen creating nine homemade soups and was famous for her "Christine salad." They lived in southwest Minneapolis, just seven blocks away from the Convention. Pete walked to work every day before 8 a.m. and returned home after 10 p.m. The Convention wasn't just their home away from home; it was home, where they spent nearly all of their waking hours with their three boys: Nicholas, Harry and Mario.
A 1942 photograph (below) in the family photo album shows the boys standing on Sunnyside Road with the Convention in the back ground. (You can also see the partial sign for the Westgate Dairy Store, which shared space in the building with the Convention. The dairy store, which was better known as simply Dennison's, later moved to the small building west of the parking lot. But that's another story for another day.)
"We never felt like we were working for our customers... they were our friends," Christine told Edina Sun reporter Jane Sims Podesta when the Santrizos retired in August 1976 after 35 years in the business.
Aren't these the greatest photos? I especially love the last one, with the distinct exterior of the Convention in the background. I have searched for photos of the much beloved Pete and Christine Santrizos ever since we created an exhibit about the Morningside neighborhood in 2005. Finally, seven years later, I have connected with the family, who graciously allowed us to copy photos from their albums.
I have a long wish list of photos and artifacts for our collection. Since we're on the topic of Morningside businesses, we have successfully hunted down photos of Burr Cheever's barber shop and Carlson's Odd Shop. I still want photos of the interior and owners of Morningside Hardware and Joyce's Bakery, among others.
If you know these owners or their families (or know someone who knows somebody who does), please contact me. Also, please share your memories of the Convention Grill and Pete and Christine by commenting here.
If you missed last Friday's post, check out the 1941 Convention ad here as well as two other Convention Grill posts here.
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