History of Red Top and family intertwined for 50 years
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/08/2010 (4439 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Vicky Scouras was a bit taken aback by the panic she caused when she made the smallest of changes to her restaurant — renovations of the bathrooms.
Customers of the Red Top kept telling her the same thing: don’t change the diner they love so much.
“We’re going to change slowly, but the heart of the place will stay the same,” Scouras recalls telling them.
As the restaurant celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, long-time customers say the real heart of the Red Top is the Scouras family.
The restaurant was opened in 1960 by Greek immigrant Gus Scouras and business partners.
A few years later, Gus’s brother John — Vicky’s future husband — joined the venture and the other partners left.
The brothers ran the eatery together for decades, turning the small diner into an iconic landmark in St. Boniface.
“It was a window take-out at the beginning,” says Vicky Scouras, who became co-owner in 1997 when her brother-in-law retired.
Tragedy struck in 2007, when her husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack.
That’s when the couple’s younger son Peter — who had been encouraged by his parents to pursue a career outside the restaurant business — stepped up.
“I said, ‘Peter, what are we going to do now?’” Vicky Scouras remembers as tears well up in her eyes.
“I said, ‘I always wanted the restaurant. It was you guys who tried to push me away’,” her son responds.
Peter Scouras, who is now the Red Top’s general manager, has his theories as to why the restaurant has gained such legendary status — with big-name customers over the years such as Sam Katz, the Guess Who, and any number of Blue Bombers.
“My old man and my uncle Gus used to sponsor sports teams all over the place,” he says. “They spread themselves out a lot.”
His mother said it goes even further than that. As immigrants, a tight and genuine Greek community welcomed her husband and brother-in-law to their new home.
Vicky Scouras said the brothers brought that same community attitude into the restaurant.
“When you do something genuine, it has a lasting impression,” she says. “We know the customers, we know their ups and downs.”
Pat Curry has been having afternoon coffee at the Red Top for more than 35 years with a group of friends.
“All this time we’ve been coming here, no one told us to get out,” he laughs.
Curry said John Scouras would sit and talk with them, and Peter does the same.
Bob Holliday, president of the St. Vital Museum and a Red Top customer for 48 years, said everyone was happy the family decided to keep the restaurant after John Scouras’s death.
“There was a lot of people who just thought they would put it up for sale,” he says.
Peter Scouras says he tries to keep his father’s legacy alive by continuing to treat Red Top customers the way John and Gus Scouras did.
“What they did — what I try to do — is get to know the customers,” he says.
His mother plans on handing the Red Top over to her son in a few years.
“My brother-in-law, my husband and myself have left our legacy,” she says. “Now it’s (Peter’s) turn.”
Will the Red Top make it to its 100th anniversary?
“If I can last that long — sure,” Peter chuckles.