Veano’s II in Concord closes as area prepares for development
George Georgopoulos says he will miss the woman, a regular customer of Veano’s Italian Kitchen II, who for years insisted that her eggplant sub be served unassembled.
She wanted the eggplant separated from the vegetable sauce. She wanted the cheese and naked sub roll to have their own space on the plate as well, allowing her to eat the eggplant with a fork and knife and dip the bread in the vegetable sauce.
He will also be missed by his Veano’s II staff, who worked with him for 40 years, and the climate of the place where everyone knows your name, and the couple who created a pair of family photo collages. , friends and customers. All were deeply touched by the restaurant’s last day of business last Saturday after a nine-year run.
“They are more than just customers,” Georgopoulos said recently. “Last week, I had people who came here in tears every day. People were crying. People I had been seeing for 10 years, three or four times a week. Without all these ordinary people, I wouldn’t wouldn’t have made it.
The square is a sad place these days. Veano’s II and two other businesses – Seams to Fit and a martial arts studio – in the small Manchester Street shopping center have already closed due to the inevitable development of commercial businesses and homes at their location at 30 Manchester Street.
Redevelopment of the property has been underway for three years, since Concord City Council approved the site’s rezoning from Open Space Residential to a Gateway Performance neighborhood.
The mixed-use development on a 22-acre parcel along the Merrimack River would be the largest such plan in Concord’s history and would allow housing units to join commercial buildings in a single community.
The ROI Irrevocable Family Trust still owns the property, and that includes the land behind the square, which once housed a drive-in theater some 40 years ago.
The Trust will pay for basic infrastructure, such as sidewalks and private roads, and will remain the prime contractor. A planned sandwich shop and convenience store would pay rent to the Trust, while land for other projects, such as housing and offices, would be sold.
A traffic study is currently being reviewed and that plan could be presented to Concord’s Planning Board by June, said solicitor Ari Pollack, who represents the Trust.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Pollack said by phone. “The market is strong and the property is long overdue for redevelopment. This is an opportunity where we can do it in a short period of time.
Only Johnson’s Performance, an auto parts dealership, remains open. Like the other merchants there, Johnson’s lease was terminated last year, which these local business owners knew would happen eventually.
Johnson’s owner Greg LaRosa said it was due out by the end of August. Like Georgopoulos, he has no idea where he’s going, and like Veano’s II, his business had been well established for decades.
For Veano’s II, their closed and locked doors and dark interior symbolize a profound loss for its loyal fan base.
“I wasn’t happy,” Georgopoulos said, referring to the eviction notice he received a year ago. “I have worked here for a long time, I have regular customers, people I see here. Some come twice a day, for breakfast and lunch, and most people I know by name because I see them so much.
Georgopoulos, a bit of a man, spoke during a break after cleaning his restaurant, storing things and apologizing to his guest that someone had recently removed the coffee machine and he did not had nothing to offer.
He sat at a table wearing a Bruins hat, jeans and a Veano t-shirt. His sons – Nasi and Spiro – worked and cleaned in the kitchen. His Greek accent was obvious, but his English was clear.
The farewell cake unveiled last Saturday, 75% eaten, rested on a long table, covered with a transparent plastic tray. There were dozens of plastic ketchup containers and dozens of salt and pepper shakers, huddled together, their work in this particular establishment done.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 2 years old,” Georgopoulos said. ” That’s all I know. I like what I do.”
Georgopoulos immigrated to New Hampshire from Greece in 1981. He was 14 and spoke no English. He worked for his father and uncles, who had opened Veano’s Italian Kitchen seven years earlier on Loudon Road.
He parted ways with the family business and opened Veano’s II, at its current location, in 2013. He brought four female staff members with him. Employees who were teenagers at the old venue, as was Georgopoulos. They basically grew up together.
“We were competing with the other Veanos (now on the outskirts of Pembroke) when we opened,” Georgopoulos said. “No one comes through the door. The girls say, ‘George, you have to do something.’ I told him to give it time.
Now 56, Georgopoulos has a lot to do. He needs a new location if he chooses to continue working after taking six months off. Also, his wife is sick. “Not good,” he said.
Like the other merchants in the strip, Georgopoulos knew that his lease was temporary and that one day he would be forced to leave. He received his eviction notice last year on May 4, exactly one year before his deadline to vacate the property.
And while it closed with three weeks to spare to save money on rent, Tambra Tijerina, owner of Seams to Fit, closed two years ago and reopened at 155 Manchester St.
“We knew 21 years ago when we moved in and got this lease that he was trying to sell the land behind us,” Tijerina said. “I didn’t know how long it would last, and 21 is pretty good.”
Meanwhile, LaRosa said he needs to be out by the end of August. Like Georgopoulos, he has no idea where he’s going, and like Veano’s II, his company’s connection to the community has been well established for decades.
He’s owned Johnson for 36 years, 22 of them at the small mall. He says his customers are worried.
“A lot of them are like, ‘We can’t get this stuff anywhere else, where can we go?’ “said LaRosa.
He says rents are high, making it difficult for him to find new accommodation. “I just wanted to keep going,” LaRosa said. “I found out that I would have to move for sure last September. Before that, the possibility was always there.
Georgopoulos knew that this cold, hard fact could surface at any time. He knew he would receive notice, but when his expulsion letter arrived, Georgopoulos was emotionally unprepared.
“The lease agreement said that if they sold the place, he had the right to terminate my lease,” Gerogopoulos said. “At the time, I wanted to open at Concord because that’s where people knew me.”
Then he added: “Should I have signed it? Probably not.”
But he did. He takes six months off to rest from his 90-hour workweek and take care of his wife. He is confident that his base will remain loyal, if in fact he opens elsewhere.
“A lot of customers here have become like family,” said his son, Nasi. “That’s the only thing you have on the big chains, personal experience, and you know you’re not going to meet the president of Olive Garden.”
You will meet Georgopoulos. It was his trademark schtick, walking around the dining room, an ambassador chatting with his friends. He cooked, cleaned and cared for, enough to save his last piece of eggplant, anticipating that his wayward friend would visit him one last time.
She did it. His submarine was separated. Like always.
“If I can get to the other side of Concord,” Georgopoulos said, “I have no doubt in my mind that all these people who have supported me all these years, they will come wherever I go. I’ll bet my life on it.