Saturday was a glad day for Coney Island. Tina Georgoulakos, owner of Paul’s Daughter, and her father Paul “The Chief” Georgoulakos, 83, the oldest operator on the Coney Island Boardwalk, finally opened their store for the season. Michael and Melody Sarrel, owners of the venerable dive bar Ruby’s, founded by Melody’s father Ruby Jacobs, officially reopened as well. In the photo that we took of Michael and Melody, they looked tired after working late and getting up early to greet runners from the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Tina Georgoulakos looked tired as well. We promise to take better photos of them next week!
For the first time in their history, both Ruby’s and Paul’s missed out on Coney Island’s Opening Day –Palm Sunday– as well as Easter Sunday, which is one of the busiest days of the season if the sun shines. They were in the midst of a grueling and expensive gut rehab of their Boardwalk stores. Words can’t express how happy we are to welcome back these feisty Mom & Pops, who fought eviction and in a turnabout won eight-year leases. Now that the days of “Last Call” protest parties and photos of the “The Last French Fry” are over, another chapter in the history of the Coney Island Boardwalk is about to begin.
How do the new stores look? Check out our first day photo album, but keep in mind Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter are still very much works in progress and some of the changes that you will notice this summer were required by Boardwalk landlord Zamperla or city regulations. Most of the signage, inside and out, and other decorative elements has yet to be done. We’d recommend holding off any critique of the Boardwalk redo until all of the stores are finished and the changes can be viewed in their entirety. That said, our first impression was Ruby’s and Paul’s stores looked refreshed and ready to compete for customers in the new Coney Island while paying tribute to the spirit of the past and continuing to embody the personalities of their owners.
At Paul’s Daughter, the winsome fiberglass figures of Papa and Mama Burger still stand sentinel on the roof. They never left. Half of the storefront is now a stand-up bar made with wood salvaged from the roof joists of the former Club Atlantis/Cha Cha’s, which is undergoing a gut rehab by Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights.
Today, the vernacular signage depicting Mr Shrimp, Chiefito and Chiefita (the Nice N Sweet/Fluffy Cotton Candy Kids), Shish Kebab (“Made with Love”) and other enticements was returned to its rightful place on the building’s lower facade. Some of the signs have been here since the restaurant’s earliest days and were restored and mounted on wood. A temporary banner with the name Paul’s Daughter as well as striped blue awnings were also installed today.
As Tina Georgoulakos told ATZ: “It’s a brand new place with the same people.” Gaby, seen in the photo at the top of this post, is one of the same people who has been serving us French fries and beer for years, and we were happy to once again see him behind the counter. We asked him to raise a cup in a pose reminiscent of a favorite photo that we took at Paul’s closing party in 2010.
The photograph on the wall behind him is a 1954 snapshot of Paul Georgoulakos in his store on West 12 Street and the Bowery. The business on the Boardwalk is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year! Gregory & Paul’s was co-founded by Paul and his partner Gregory Bitetzakis in 1962, with a lease from the then brand-new Astroland, which closed in 2008 and also would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
At Ruby’s Bar, an LED sign spelling Ruby’s in red letters and the striped awnings mandated for the Boardwalk stores have yet to go up, but friends and fans came out on Saturday to raise a toast to the reborn bar. Formica tabletops as well as the bar itself were redone with ipe wood salvaged from the Boardwalk reconstruction. On the Boardwalk in front of the bar, white plastic tables and chairs have been replaced by wrought iron. The best of the best vintage photos will be put back up behind the bar, but for now the freshly painted blue wall is dotted with a few colorful posters and photos of the bar’s founder.
Ruby Jacobs, who died in 2000, has a nearby street named in his honor. At a rally, party and “last call” at Ruby’s in 2010, his daughter Cindy Jacobs-Allman said: “When people used to come and ask him what is the best item on the menu. He used to take people out to the boardwalk rail and say look at that tapestry of humanity. It’s the people that make Coney island and he called his Coney the elixir of life. And I hope in some way we’ve given back to the community and we’ve done my father proud by keeping this restaurant going as long as we have.”
On Saturday, a paper plate advertised the menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and soda. Today in Coney Island, signage with the full menu was being installed. Ruby’s, which merited a Critics’ Picks in New York Magazine and was voted one of the World’s 21 Sexiest Beach Bars by the Travel Channel, will now be open year-round, thanks to a new heating system. The restrooms have also been modernized, with the ladies room gaining a much appreciated second stall.
Related posts on ATZ...
April 16, 2012: Art of the Day: Fresh Corn on the Cob at Ruby’s Bar & Grill
December 8, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk
November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk