Far and away, one of the most nostalgic businesses of all time for generations of Laurel residents is Gavriles—the beloved luncheonette, candy shop, and so much more—that finally closed in 1989 after 79 years in business at 385 Main Street.
I’ve found a couple of newspaper clippings with photos that captured both the beginning and the end of this hometown treasure.
There was a very nice article on Gavriles published early last year at Laurel Patch. And while the Laurel Library only retained the first page of the April 23, 1989 article shown above, I’ve tracked down the complete text from the Washington Post’s archives:
|In Laurel, a Fountain of Nostalgia; Gavriles Family Closing Gathering Spot for 79 Years of Memories|
|The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) – Washington, D.C.|
|Author:||Eugene L. Meyer|
|Date:||Apr 23, 1989|
|Text Word Count:||918|
|On Main Street in Laurel, a picture post card turn-of-the-century downtown midway between Baltimore and Washington, residents are in mourning these days. Gavriles, a local institution known for its tasty milkshakes, egg salad sandwiches and friendly proprietors, is going out of business.
But weep not for the Gavriles-Theodore, 82, Nicholas, 75, and their sister Christine, 80, whose immigrant father Speros opened an ice cream parlor and candy store here in 1910. Nostalgia is for others. Retirement is for them.
“It don’t take me long to part with it,” said Theodore, whom they call Teddy. “I got so tired of merchandise, I’d throw myself away if I’d thought of it. You don’t know how happy we were on Sundays when we were closed.”
Agreed Nicholas: “No, I’m not gonna miss it; I don’t know about the public. It’s too many long hours, it has you tied down. It’ll be a relief.”
Added Christine, philosophically, “I mean all good things come to this,” an end. “Everybody liked the shakes. I did, too. Well, that’s that.”
The store has been a fixture for years in this town of 15,000 at the northern edge of Prince George’s County. Much around it has changed, as superhighways and subdivisions have changed the landscape. But Laurel, a former mill town that became a railroad suburb, retained its own special flavor and identity.
Gavriles has been part of that identity, with its soda fountain and lunch tables that provided a familiar meeting and eating place at 385 Main St.
“Somehow, I feel this building should be declared a historical site,” said Sharon Gordon, who told them, “I loved having my lunch here. I’m so sorry you’re leaving. I can hardly stop from crying, it’s so sad.”
Ray Streeks, who used to own the baby supplies shop next door, wished them well and fought back tears. “Well, Theodore,” he said, “I’m gonna go. I just can’t stand this. It breaks my heart to see you all close up.”
Everything in the store is for sale now, from the two-cent lollipops to the old-fashioned phone booth, asking price $2,000, to a milkshake machine for $75. The brothers are even selling their own wooden shoe trees, for $2 a pair, and Theodore was parting with his summer and winter hats for $1.50 apiece.
There were a few buyers Friday among the steady stream of people stopping by. Most were old friends and customers who came to wish them well, say goodbye and pay their respects. “These people are like family,” said Charles Flynn. “I’ve been in and out of here all my life. They’re very nice people, the best.”
The Gavriles are moving to Michigan to live near their niece in Dearborn. She is here helping them dispose of the business. “We just bought them a house today five minutes from me,” said Eve Scott, whose mother Mary was the only one of seven Gavriles to marry and have children. “I’ve been pushing for this for some time,” Scott said. “I know it’s an institution, but I’m more concerned with them than with an institution.”
The Gavriles, who live in a four-bedroom apartment over the store, had no retirement plans. But then Christine became ill and was hospitalized for weeks. The brothers decided it was the time for the three of them to move on.
The hand-lettered sign on the front door and window says, “Quitting the Business-Selling Out.” Another sign says, “Fountain and Lunch Counter Closed.”
The neon sign that announces “Gavriles/Candy/Soda/Lunch” outside will stay with the store, they’ve decided. “I feel kind of good about that,” said Christine. “Old Papa, you’re still hanging around . . . . ” Their niece said a developer who wants to keep the place as a luncheonette is interested in buying the building. The Gavriles are asking $450,000 for it.
“Sure, we’re happy,” Theodore said. “We didn’t have an ounce of freedom before. A small business isn’t easy, never was. We had a lot of good times, but as far as making a fortune, there wasn’t no fortune in it.”
Of course, they’ll miss the people if not the work, they said. To customers who came by to wish them well, they even apologized for closing.
“It makes me so sad, but you need a rest, don’t you?” said Sharon Powell, who had brought along her son Roger, 10. She said she had first brought him to the store when he was 2. “He said, `Can we come down here for lunch?’ ”
“I’m sorry, Roger,” Theodore told the boy. “I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
But Theodore was able to help Will Neese, 39, who came in with wife Sheri and son Matthew, 5, to buy some toys. “I had no idea they were closing,” he said. “My gosh, I was five years old when I first came in here.”
Theodore, who also had a clock repair shop on Main Street for years, told him, “I have a clock your mother never came to get. I saw her at the drugstore 10 years ago and told her it was ready. Will you give it to her?”
Scott brought the clock out from the back. “I’m glad you came around,” Theodore said. “That was going to be the last thing we were going to sell.”
PHOTO,,Carol Guzy CAPTION:Amid the store’s jumble, Betty Jane Wenzel, right, gives Christine Gavriles a goodbye kiss. Theodore Gavriles is at far right. CAPTION:The neon sign will remain with the store. The business was started in 1910.
Having sold off its remaining inventory, its not surprising to see the occasional Gavriles artifact resurface on eBay. Most recently, a number of vintage trick-or-treat candy bags were listed.
Unfortunately, and as you’d probably imagine, the treats were not included.
I used to go out with a girl in 1975 whose dad spent many hours hanging out at Gavriles with his buddies. When he found out I didn’t drive he told me half-jokingly that not driving was “un-American:)