Business that began in 1922 closes doors

August 18, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The lights went out on another corner of old Baltimore yesterday.

Loyal patrons came three generations deep to Cocoros Brothers in Belair Market, to get one last taste of hamburgers and hot dogs topped with heaps of boiled onions and chili.

The food has a flavor like no other, they said.

And though Arthur "Archie" Cocoros closed the business that his father and uncle, Greek immigrants, started in 1922 -- its location will be razed as part of the city's empowerment zone -- he's not ready to give away the recipes.

So longtime customer Randy Giles had to settle for filling an insulated pouch with food to take back to his home in Lansdale, Pa.

"There's hot dogs, there's hamburgers and there's Polish sausages," Giles said, peeping into the bag at the precious foil-wrapped cargo. "Since this is the last day, I'm going to eat maybe one or two a day" to make the order last.

The Baltimore native, 45, came in with his daughter Brandi, 18, and mother and aunt for breakfast and sandwiches to go.

Giles, a production planner at Merck & Co., has eaten at Cocoros every time he has been in Baltimore to visit family. "I stop here before I see my mother," he said.

His mother, Zatella Giles, has been a faithful Cocoros customer since her teen years in the 1940s, and she raised her three sons on the taste of bacon and egg sandwiches and chili and onion topped hamburgers and hot dogs.

"You could cook it at home, but it won't taste the same," said Zatella Giles, a retired quality control inspector at Continental Can Co. "The chili, nobody else fixes it. We don't know where we're going to go now."

She left her phone number in case Cocoros opens elsewhere.

Behind the counter on the business's last day, relief was mixed with sadness for Arthur Cocoros, 59. He and his cousin, Stavro Cocoros, 74, took over the business from Nicholas Cocoros, one-half of the founding team, in 1976. With Stavro Cocoros ill with lung cancer, Arthur Cocoros has been overseeing the business alone for the past few months.

The city will close the northern market building at the end of the month and eventually demolish it and build a bank and supermarket or drugstore in its place as part of empowerment zone revitalization in the area, said Scott Hardesty, a former president of the Belair Market Merchants Association.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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