People You Know - Route 38 Cafe's Tom Chagias
Mar 17, 2016 02:40PM
By Hollie Gonzalez
George and Tom Chagias of the Route 38 Cafe.
There are more than a dozen cafe's or diners between Tewksbury and Wilmington combined. Some have been here for years, some new and some recently closed. Route 38 Café has been at 2493 Main Street since the early 1920's, although it hasn't always been called that. I sat down today with owner Tom Chagias to ask him about Route 38 and what makes it "cook" so to speak. Tom is a ball of energy. But it wasn't just that about him that I wanted to share with you. It's his compassion for his Café. His compassion for his customers, and his carefully created craft here in Tewksbury.
Hollie Gonzalez - How long has Route 38 Café been in business here in Tewksbury?
Tom Chagias - We have been here for over 13 years now. By "we", I mean me and my brother George, Chef extraordinaire. (George comes humbly out of the kitchen at this point, with some prodding from his brother)
HG - Has this always been called Route 38 Café
George Chagias - It used to be called Joyce's Place around 2002 or 2003. It was a breakfast and lunch place too.
HG - What can you tell me about the history of this place?
TC & GC - In the late 1920's or early 1930's it was called Silver Lake Bakery. (Tom takes a picture off the wall to show me an original photo of one of their trucks) It is actually listed with the Wilmington Historical Society. A lot of the houses around this area back then were cottages. Most of them were not equipped with kitchens so everyone came to Silver Lake Bakery to do their baking and share their product. Sometime in the 50's it was purchased from Herman and Catherine Bischoff by a woman named Elsie from Germany. She is now an elder with the Methodist Church. In the 60's, but we are not sure of exactly when, her husband was killed in an accident and she sold the business. It changed hands a few times after that. It was a Queens Donuts, and a Luigi's sub and pizza shop before Joyce's Place. Now we have the honor of forming a legacy with Route 38 Café.
HG - I know that you offer a full breakfast and lunch menu seven days a week . Is there anything you offer that we might not know about?
TC - We do catering. It's a little know fact. We cater anything and everything. We do a lot with churches for Sunday brunches. If you need something catered, and don't know what you want, give us a call or come in. We can make whatever you want.
HG - What else do you guys do that Tewksbury might not know about?
TC - We actually can rent out our space for private parties. We can do birthday parties, office parties, etc, just ask us. We are more than willing to accommodate you.
HG - Is all of your staff from Tewksbury?
TC - Well, my brother and myself actually live in Watertown, but stay upstairs in the apartment above the café. Brenda, our waitress is local. Our other waitress Emily is from Billerica, Kathleen is from Tewksbury and Annmarie is from Dorchester. We have quite an eclectic mix. A great group here.
HG - I noticed the help wanted sign outside..
TC - We are looking for dependable and reliable kitchen help.
HG - There are often long waits and lines out the door on Saturday and Sunday mornings. What do you attribute that to?
TC - (he laughs) My food of course! The quality of the food we produce is fresh and delicious. It proves what you have works and people like that. They know that when you come in here you are going to get a great product and a great meal. Our prices are good and we are always here on site to make sure that everything is running smoothly. My brother is a master in the kitchen. He puts his heart and soul into every flip of the spatula. I have a passion for this industry and that is important. I know just about everyone's name that comes through that door and if I don't, I make it a point to ask you.
HG - What is it like to run a restaurant here in Tewksbury?
TC - You know, Tewksbury is a cool town. The people here are good to us. We have a lot of regulars and really appreciate them. Compared to running a restaurant here versus say a big city like Boston, well there is no comparison.
HG - In your opinion, what is the best thing about Tewksbury?
TC - The fact that it rests. I mean at night, the town rests, it's quiet. I like the fact that a town has some downtime. It almost rejuvenates itself for the next day.
HG - What in your opinion is the worst thing about Tewksbury?
TC - Well, it's not really Tewksbury's full fault, but the town really needs some better and more accessible public transportation. Getting around this town is nearly impossible if you don't have a car. And for certain sidewalks!(echoed many times before) There is a real need for sidewalks on the main roads. I walk a lot and it is very dangerous on some sections of the main streets. I see a lot of kids walking home after school and people out walking or jogging in the middle of the road. It is very scary.
HG - There are lots of new restaurants opening in both Tewksbury & Wilmington and lots of them closing (think Airport Diner and Brave Troops). What is the key to operating a successful restaurant here in town?
TC - Consistency for sure. Quality products. And most definitely, being there. 7 days a week the owner needs to be there in some capacity. If you put your heart and soul into something then you should be there to make sure it is the product you want to display.
HG - What advice can you offer to a new restaurant or diner just starting out?
TC - Patience. You have to have it. Sometimes you feel like a bartender when you run a restaurant. You have to be everybody's therapist sometimes. But that being said, it's an important part of running any company. You have to listen and interact with your customers. That is how you get to know them. That is how you create a bond with them.
Tom and his brother George have created just that. A bond with the towns here. Both Tewksbury and Wilmington. George was shy to do the interview, but not in the typical way. He was so concerned that an order might come in while he was talking to me and he couldn't let that happen. Not on his watch. He is so dedicated to his passion. I sat with Tom for a few more minutes and learned more about him and his family. He spoke about his parents and was so proud to be talking about his mom. She was absolutely a driving force in his career choice. As we sat in the corner booth, I asked about the eclectic designs on the walls and adorning the shelves. Tom says it makes the place happy. It gives it a homey feel and the customers love it. Even the mugs on the tables are adorned with company logo's from around town, which I found out he has a local kid make for him. Tom likes to talk. He likes to share stories and get to know his customers and their families. I think that is one of the reasons that Route 38 Café has been here for so long and I think that is the reason that it will be here for a lot longer. Well, that of course and the food too!
Quick 5 - Tom Chagias
Scrambled or Over Easy - Over Easy
Roller Coaster or Merry-go-Round - Roller Coaster
Favorite smell - Lilac
I would like to be a contestant on what cooking show - Hell's Kitchen
Past or present, favorite actress - Katharine Hepburn
(Hollie Gonzalez lives in Tewksbury with her husband and two children. She is very passionate about her town.)
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