WILLIAM GEORGE "Uncle Willie" SARRIS
William George "Uncle Willie" Sarris was the oldest of 6 children born to Greek immigrants George and Georgia Sarris in 1910 in a small town at the foot of the Adirondack mountains of Northern New York State. Georgia operated a small family restaurant and George ran a fruit and vegetable stand while raising their family. The children all helped in the businesses while attending school.
At the start of WWII, Willie worked in a munitions plant not far from his hometown. In 1941, he married Sotera "Teddy" Nicholas and was soon drafted into the US Army and served as a cook while serving in Europe during the war. His two brothers, John and Jimmy, also served, with John in the Merchant Marines and Jimmy serving in the Navy. After the war, the brothers formed a partnership and rebuilt the small restaurant into a drive-in restaurant serving Mother Sarris' popular fried chicken and other specialities. The brothers also embarked into homemade ice cream and a variety of sandwiches including Willie's famous hot dog with meat sauce following the famous Coney Island Hot Dog. Their hot dog with their meat sauce soon became their signature food item, often selling bags of them to the locals. Their ice cream Sundae specials were equally famous with Sundaes like 3-dip banana splits and the Sundae bowls like the 5-scoop "Nightmare" and other equally named specials. Brother Jimmy became a full-time ice cream maker while John kept up with the maintenance, as they added two more locations in near-by towns. Younger sister Ethel worked along-side the brothers making it a viable partnership. In the 40's and 50's, with no such thing as TV, the stores were the favorites of the "teen crowd" for the hot dogs, burgers, sodas, and the "famous" ice cream "bowls." Often, after High School sports events, the doors had to be locked until a table was emptied of youths allowing more people to come in to sit and enjoy the food. Willie, Jimmy and Ethel were enthusiastic New York Yankee fans and often had the ball game on the radio at the stores. Jimmy had an unusual knack for holding a conversation with people and knowing everything happening in a broadcasted game he was listening to.
John Dageenakis, father of Tony and Jeff who operate the SHORT STOP convenience store chain, worked for Willie during and after High School. John lost his father in 1949 while in High School and was mentored by Willie after John's dad died. John met Willie's sister-in-law Elayne, youngest sister of Willie's wife, Teddy, while working at the restaurant. John and Elayne maintained a long-distance friendship while John served in the US Navy in the Pacific Theatre during the Korean War. After the war, John and Elayne married and soon moved to Colorado so John could attend the University of colorado Engineering School under the GI Bill. While in school, John became involved in the service station business, had 3 sons Tony, Jeff and Craig, and soon was in the business of repairing cars. Son Tony became close with "Uncle Willie" while spending time with him at his stores when John and his wife visited their home town on vacations. The service business soon became more involved in the businesses and the locations soon became convenience stores and a large auto repair shop. Tony and Jeff became operators of the ShortStop convenience locations after John decided to leave the every-day running fo the stores to the sons, while the auto repair center was sold to John's youngest son, Craig, a Master Auto Technician. The rest is history…
The Sarris family, after a number of years operating three locations, decided to split the locations between the brothers and Willie operated on of them until his untimely death in a traffic accident while enjoying a family reunion in Florida with his wife in 1991. Teddy was Beverly injured but, after a very long recuperation period, returned to health but sold the last "Sarris Brothers" location. She died in 2009, leaving 2 loving sons, George and Brian.
Willie's legacy lives on with John's memory of his "Foster Father", "uncle Willie" Sarris and his famous "uncle Willie's Coney Dog."