Talarantas was only 13 when his family left Europe and traveled to New York City.
“I had no choice,” he admitted as he sat at a table at the Beeville Diner at 2503 N. St. Mary’s St. and explained why he ended up in the Big Apple. It was where his family settled.
That was 41 years ago. Like many of those from his native country, Talarantas ended up in the restaurant business.
“It’s what we know,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders.
Right now, he’s hoping to have the doors open at his new business on June 1. “I hope I make it,” he said. “I’m going to try my best.”
It was the early 1970s when the Talarantas family landed in New York City. Talarantas went to school in Brooklyn, where the family lived. But it was hard for a Greek kid to make it in a tough, inner city school. He dropped out before he graduated and ended up working a push cart on a street corner in downtown New York.
He sold shish kebabs, hot dogs and other foods to busy New Yorkers who had to eat on the run. But he had to fight to stay in business.
There were the thieves who grabbed food from his cart and ran off with him calling after them, “Hey, come back! You forgot to get a soda!”
And there were the gangs that would crowd around his cart and try to grab his apron where he kept his money.
But the police were the hardest to fight in New York City. Talarantas clearly recalled the first time a member of the NYPD who walked the beat where he sold his food harassed him.
“He said, ‘Minas, you can’t work this corner any more. You have to leave.’”
Talarantas left the corner for a few days, took some time off and returned only to be told again he had to leave. However, the businessman looked around him and saw other pushcart owners still working.
At times, police vans would pull up to Talarantas’ push cart, take every ounce of his food, load it into the van and leave him standing there with nothing to sell.
Talarantas put up with the harassment for 25 years before moving to Corpus Christi 16 years ago. He left two sisters behind and still goes back to New York to visit. But he never stays long. He cannot wait to get back to Texas.
Here, he found peace. He found a business, a place to raise his two children and a place to prosper.
Talarantas and his brother owned the City Diner on Water Street until recently when he sold his part of the business and decided to open a restaurant in Beeville.
“This is going to be a family restaurant,” Talarantas said as he sat at a refinished table in the dining room. He wore faded jeans and a T-shirt with a yellow paint stain on the right shoulder.
“Steaks, seafood, salads, sandwiches and homemade bread,” he said with a grin. “And I came to Beeville to make everybody happy. Service with a smile.”
“I believe in hard work,” Talarantas said in his thick, Greek accent. “I’m going to try my best. Only with hard work and being good to people do you get business.”
“I came here with a commitment to give the people what they want,” Talarantas continued. “I like to give. There are two kinds of people in the world. People that take and people that give. People that take eat well. People that give sleep well. I like to sleep well.
“If I can help people in small ways, that’s what makes me feel good at night when I go to sleep.”
The new occupant of the building that started out as a Burger King years ago will be where Talarantas intends to keep that promise.
Talarantas said he intends to offer “good food, good quality, good service and good prices. I came here with a good heart.”
Talarantas said he invested his life’s savings in the restaurant, and he intends to make the investment pay off for him and his family. He has revamped everything from the kitchen to the serving counter and the dining room. He had to upgrade or repair almost every part of the building.
“I have two kids in college,” he said with the concern of a dedicated father.
Although he still lives in Corpus Christi, he hopes eventually to move to Beeville and make this city his home.
“I come here with a good heart,” Talarantas wanted to tell the people of Beeville. “I want to say thank you. I want to fit in here.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.