Greek-American Families

Lewnes: Lewnes family history

Lewnes Family History

In 1906, a boy of 14 ventured from Arna, a village in Sparta, Greece, to America on the English ship, Compania, with one suit of clothes and enough money($57) to cover fare, food, and the immigration law, which stated that an alien must have $25 in his pocket to enter America.

Sam Lewnes settled with Greek friends in Brooklyn, New York and found a job as a pin boy in the bowling alley of the Germanic Club, making “good money” at $1.50 a week.  He diligently saved what he could and soon had $15, enough to buy a pushcart. Thus, began the humble beginnings of a career in the food business, as the young boy pushed his cart through the streets of Rockaway Beach, New York, selling peanuts and popcorn.

At the urging of his first cousin, Sam came to Annapolis to meet Cecelia Mandris, whose beauty and charm captured his heart.   In 1913, Sam and Cecelia wed and Annapolis became their new and permanent home. Sometime later, Sam’s brother, John, and sister, Christina also came to Annapolis. John married Elefteria Nichols and Christina married William Katsereles. John and Elefteria had no children and William and Christina had six children:  Athena (Lambros), Beatrice (Adviotis), Anna (Sakers), Golfee (Bounelis), Ethel (Hayes) and Charlie.   William was the first barber in Eastport on Third Street, which is now Fourth Street.  William later became the owner of The Town Hall restaurant/nightclub, which is where Mike’s Crab House is today.

Sam, with his brother-in-law, Nick Mandris, operated the Palace Confectionary on Main Street. Later Sam and his brother, John, opened the Sugar Bowl on West Street and the Busy Bee Lunch on Calvert Street.  In 1921, Sam bought a business in Eastport, (a subdivision in Annapolis) from his brother-in-law, Nick Mandris, and opened Sam’s Corner. Nick, in turn, opened Mandris’ Restaurant, which is where Middleton Tavern is today. The property is still owned by the Mandris/Apostol family.  Nick’s siblings we’re Vasileke (Lewnes), Panagiota (Conits), and Louis Mandris.  Nick married Helen Apostolakos and they had four children: Jim, Mamie (Apostol), Georgia (Nichols), and Crossie(George).

Sam and Cecelia had five children: George, Nick(who passed away at a very young age), Dino, Louis, and Anna(Hagner). Sam’s eldest son, George, fell in love with a dark-haired beauty named Helen Diamond (Diamantakos) and they were married in 1940. Helen was the daughter of Stavroula Harakas and George Peter Daimantakos (Diamond). Helen had four brothers: Peter, Gus, Sam, and Jimmy and one sister, Eva. Peter married Marie Prevas and they had two sons, George and Nick.  George and Helen had four children: Spiro(married to Carol, daughters Dayna and Alyse), Charlie (married to Pam, sons Sam and Mack), Vicki (married to Jim Steinberg , daughter Tracy, son Jimmy) and Pericles (married to Lisa, son Alex).

George and Helen continued in the restaurant business  by opening a small concession stand at Horn Point Beach, where they sold hot dogs, peanuts, and soft drinks. For years, they also operated a concession stand at the Eastport Fire Department carnivals. In 1947, George and his brother, Louie, took over Sam’s Corner from their father and renamed it Lewnes’ Bar and Grill. For many years it was a favorite lunchroom with the locals and workers at Trumpy’s Boatyard.  Nine years later, George left
Lewnes’ Bar and Grille in the capable hands of his brother, Lou, and he and his father and Helen ventured two blocks away and opened the Bridgeview Restaurant, a small establishment which seated 50 people. George and Helen’s sons, Spiro and Charlie eventually joined their parents in the family business, and by 1966 added a lounge and changed the name of the restaurant to The Yardarm. With many expansions over the years, the restaurant evolved into Spiro’s in 1975. With the passing of Sam in 1981 and George in 1983, the family leased the property to Jim Foote, where it was remodeled and renamed Jason’s.

With the restaurant business still in his blood, Charlie and Pam and their sons, ventured back to Fourth Street and bought the restaurant from their Uncle Louie.  After extensive remodeling, Sam’s Corner reopened in honor of Sam Lewnes.  It was a family effort, with Helen helping to organize, sister Vicki working the cash register, Pam taking the orders, and Charlie cooking. Some days it got pretty heated in that kitchen… People came from all around for those foot longs and steak and cheese sandwiches…. Charlie became quite the grill man!   Charlie and Pam’s young sons, Sam and Mack, who were sequestered in the back of the restaurant every weekend while their parents worked, learned at a very early age when it was safe to come out!  Unfortunately, in 1994, during a freezing, cold night, the pipes burst, causing extensive damage and forcing the restaurant to close.

The demand for prime steaks encouraged Charlie to establish Lewnes’ Steakhouse, which is operated today by Sam and Mack.  Both boys have degrees in hotel/restaurant management. Sam graduated in 2008 from Oklahoma State University and started his career at Lewnes’ Steakhouse. Mack graduated from Cornell University in 2011 and got five years of experience in sales and management with a nationwide company, before coming to work at Lewnes’ with his brother. Mack married his college sweetheart, Kimberly, and they have a beautiful 1-year old daughter, Lily.

While there are Lewneses all over the country, we are fortunate to have so many of us together in this wonderful city of Annapolis, which is steeped in Greek heritage.