Charlie Tsemplis, 61, the diner’s other owner and a fellow Greek emigrant, said that he and Cheliotis bought the restaurant on June 1, 1981. The two had known each other for years, Tsemplis said, having gone to school together in Greece. Tsemplis, who is also a parishioner at St. Demetrios, said that Cheliotis “was a very good man. I’m going to miss him.”
Kostas Cheliotis said that scores of the Concord’s longtime customers and former employees attended his father’s wake and funeral. Waitresses who worked there in the 1980s whom he hadn’t seen in years remembered him and his sister, Diane Aykaz, the mother of Athanasious’s granddaughters, Lucianna and Lia Aykaz.
One waiter who attended the services, whom Kostas knew only as Carlo, worked at the Concord for 21 years. Kostas said that Carlo, a South American immigrant, told him how important Cheliotis was to him.
“He was telling me how proud my dad was of me, and how he treated him like a son,” Kostas said of Carlo. “He taught him how to conduct himself as a man, and what it means to have a family. He loves my father like he was his father.”
Kostas said that the tight-knit St. Demetrios community has been supportive of his family in the wake of his father’s death. Parishioners visited their Wantagh home throughout the weekend to let the family know that they were thinking of them.
Kostas recalled that everyone who came to offer condolences said his father was always there to listen and help with a smile on his face. “I think what people know about him, which is what I will always remember, [is that] he never hesitated and never waivered in the amount of dedication and hard work that he put into his family, neighbors, church and business,” Kostas said. “He was just coming into a time in his life where he was just starting to enjoy all of his hard work. It’s definitely way too early for him to have died, but he couldn’t have been any happier.”
Grace Poppe contributed to this story.