"Pete the Greeks"

Now the oldest continuously operated business in Johnstown.

It is still being run by Jean Agnostopolus (Pete's daughter). I hadn't been in there in almost 40 years, so the last time we were in town my wife and I stopped in for a sandwich. The knotty pine is a little darker, but nary a thing has changed in 40 years.

Believe it, or not,  Jean remembered me and apologized for now (1998) charging $1.65 for a nicely done grilled cheese! She said she had to raise the prices since I was last in! Sure did - 50 years ago she was charging $.65!! Tried not to grin as $1.65 for a grilled cheese is a great price, and that included chips and a pickle!

Remember that glass enclosed candy case on the left when you first walked in? Ol' Pete would grumble like crazy as we kids drove him nuts buying penny candies. If he got to grumpy we would tell him we wanted the candy that was way down on the bottom of the candy case. He would have to almost get on his knees to get it, which made him grumpier yet! 

Ol' Pete just couldn't stand us kids. Don't know why - as we were always the sweet innocent 9 and 10 year olds that never raised any "Cain." <grin>


Pic Courtesy of Ralph Marchetti (8/2001)

Here's Jean Agnostopolus with Ralph Marchetti

 

Article from the 1/28/003 Schenectady Gazette

SWEET 80th

Ice cream store a link to Johnstown's past

By JOE MAHER
Gazette Reporter
 


JOHNSTOWN -Jean Anagnostopulos celebrated her 80th birthday Jan. 17 in the same place she's been for most of the rest of her birthdays, Pete's Ice Cream, 49 E. Main St.

Pete's, an old-time soda shop and lunch counter, was started in 1905 by Jean Anagnostopulos' father, Peter. But the business has been Jean Anagnostopulos' place for years: Pete Anagnostopulos died at age 90 in 1972; Jean's mother Alexandra died at age 93 in 1991.

Customers knew the trio behind the counter as Pete, Mrs. Pete, and Re-Pete, Jean said with a laugh.

Coming to America
Peter immigrated from Greece and settled in the area several years before he opened the precursor to Pete's Ice Cream in 1905, the Johnstown Candy Kitchen at Market and Main streets.

A framed photograph from the day shows the dark-haired, mustachioed proprietor standing to one side of the shop, wire stools at a marble counter at the other. An area set up with tables and chairs for customers was located at the rear of the store. Black bottles of Moxie line the walls.

Jean Anagnostopulos said her father learned to be a confectioner in Amsterdam, where he hooked up with other immigrants from his old village in Greece. Her father worked as an apprentice in exchange for room and board before setting out on his own.

The Candy Kitchen became Pete's Ice Cream and moved to its present location between City Hall and the Johnstown Hotel in 1929. Jean Anagnostopulos has been behind the counter pretty much since she could see over it. She isn't afraid to admit she loves it.

"I do. I grew up with it," she says.

Jean Anagnostopulos tried working in an office, but it didn't suit her.

"I gave up a couple of offers and I stuck with this," Anagnostopulos said. "It was interesting. I'd do it all over again. I like to be around people, I like to take care of them."

Through the years the business evolved from a confectioner's shop into the ice cream manufacturing business, an ice cream, breakfast and lunch counter, a deli and a small grocery.

And Pete's Ice Cream was mobile for a time. Before World War II, Jean Anagnostopulos said, her father bought a truck, stripped the body and had a friend fabricate a new one that resembled a house.

He would load the canteen with urns of coffee, fresh-baked buns and donuts, and make the rounds to the local skin mills and glove shops. Knox Field was another destination when events took place.

Jean Anagnostopulos' parents had some farmland on the Old State Road just outside of Johnstown. During World War II the farm grew in significance and was named Victory Gardens. Alexandra Anagnostopulos made her own tomato paste.

There was an ice house behind the shop before modern refrigeration.

Sweet memories
Longtime residents such as Ruth White have fond memories of days and nights at Pete's Ice Cream. White and others say Pete's was one of the places where teenagers gathered after school and before and after ballgames.

Pete's own frozen treats - popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, milkshakes and ice cream - were popular and so were the freebies.

"If you got a popsicle with `Pete's' on the handle you got a free one," White recalled.

Ten-cent chocolate malteds were another favorite. Malteds aren't available anymore, though people - usually older customers returning for a hometown visit - still ask.

"They were the thing, `The drink you eat with a spoon,' " Jean Anagnostopulos remembered.

Her father had another slogan that locals would remember seeing around town: "We serve Pete's freezer-fresh ice cream."

The old man had reason for the slogan: His shop was the first in Fulton County, in 1932, to take delivery on a counter ice-cream freezer.

Jean Anagnostopulos's nephew and part-time helper, Mike Anagnostopulos of Mayfield, said he has one of the "freezer fresh" signs at his home.

Teenagers were welcome, "But they had to behave," Jean Anagnostopulos said. "My father was very strict."

When the weather was nice and there were events going on downtown, Pete Anagnostopulos would roll the 1940-vintage popping machine out the front door and sell bags of popcorn on the street.

The machine still works and is still in the shop, as is the 53-year-old soda fountain.

Jean Anagnostopulos has some of the original wire stools from the shop's first incarnation in her home; the more than 100-year-old wall mirrors from that shop are still at Pete's Ice Cream, as is one of the old candy display cases.

You can't get Pete's homemade candy these days. But Skittles, M&M's, Necco wafers, lollipops and cough drops are available.

Newspapers are, too. Jean Anagnostopulos has a faithful bunch of regulars who stop by each morning for their reserved copies of The New York Post, The Daily News, The Daily Gazette, and The Times Union.

These days, Pete's Ice Cream is still open from 6 to 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday and Jean Anagnostopulos shows no signs of slowing. She said five hours a day is nothing compared to the old days.

"I used to work 6 to 11, 12 at night," Jean Anagnostopulos said. "Eleven-, 12-hour days were nothing. I was not afraid to work."

"They were good times," she continued. "We had less but we were contented in the city."

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