Bellaire tradition ends

Fifty-four years is a long time to do any one thing, so it is little wonder that Clara Rigas was ready to retire from the restaurant business last week after more than five decades of running a staple of downtown Bellaire.

During that lengthy span, the owner and her late husband, Mike, undoubtedly made numerous personal sacrifices and overcame many obstacles. Together they opened Rigas Restaurant and served residents of and visitors to the All-American Town for many years.

After Mike died in 1999, Clara frequently said she might just lock the doors and close up shop. It took her 18 years to actually do so.

But, as their daughter, Rosalie Kovalyk, pointed out the restaurant was Clara’s to close.

” She turned the key to open it up, she has the right to turn the key to close it,” Kovalyk said,

Still, it is a shame that another one of those old familiar places Ohio Valley residents have loved so much has closed its doors. The eatery served family-style meals made from scratch at 33rd and Belmont streets beginning on Nov. 17, 1963 — about a week before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Familiar favorites served there included fried zucchini, hot roast beef and turkey sandwiches, real mashed potatoes and much more.

Daughter Rosalie was in the second grade when the restaurant opened. She started working in the establishment a year later. She and younger brother, Christopher Rigas, were still working there when their mother announced on Sept. 3: “I think it’s time to close.”

Kovalyk said the restaurant was being painted in anticipation of increased business that might arrive with the PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker plant that has been proposed at Dilles Bottom. She added that business had been good in recent months, but she believes her mother wanted to close “on an up note.”

Now, the windows of the Bellaire landmark are covered with white paper. Small signs posted in the windows inform would-be customers that the establishment is closed.

Change is inevitable.

In many ways, this is a sad change for the Rigas family and the community. On the other hand, though, Clara Rigas has earned the right to enjoy her retirement.

We, like many others across the region, are sorry to see the restaurant go.

But we also wish Clara Rigas, her entire family and their former employees the best in the future and hope that a new business soon will come along to fill the void in downtown Bellaire.

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