1009 West Main Street - Schoolfield Lunch

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The restaurant located at what is now 1009 West Main Street (GPS coordinates N 36 degrees 34.154’, W 079 degrees 25.499’, Elevation 612’) was a landmark in the Schoolfield community for 96 years until it closed on January 29, 2010. Although a number of people were employed there over the years, the Harry Kirios family or close relatives were the principal owners and operators of the restaurant during most of its history. Other Kirios families were also involved with the restaurant, particularly during its early history, but their relationships are not always easy to ascertain.

Harry “Charlie” Kirios, whose Greek name was Huralampos D. Kirios, a native of Greece immigrated to the United States in 1898. His funeral home record at the time of his death on July 5, 1930 states that his date of birth was unknown but that his age at the time of his death was about 47 years, making his birth date about 1883. Census records are inconsistent on the date of his birth, the 1920 census indicating 1884 and the 1930 census indicating 1880. An article published in the Danville Register and Bee on July 1, 1990 states that Harry “migrated from Athens, Greece to New York City around the turn of the century”, the actual date according to the 1930 census being 1898, although the 1920 census lists 1905 which may be the date he received naturalized citizenship. He was the son of Demitrios Kirios and Metaxia Georgitsi. He married Kalomira Robanos (April 15, 1890 – November 23, 1974), a native of Leonidion, Greece who immigrated to this country in 1912 where she went by the name of Mary. She was the daughter of William Robanos and Metaxia Zarafonitis.

The Kirios name first appears in Danville City Directories in 1908 when Anastasos Kirios was operating a restaurant and living at 125 Craghead Street. By 1917 Anastasos Kirios was listed as the proprietor of the Uneeda Lunch Room at 125 Craghead Street and living at 127 Craghead Street with Harry Kirios listed as manager of the restaurant and living on Patton Street. The Kirios name became quite prominent in a number of businesses in the 1920s with Ernest Kirios listed as operating the Schoolfield Café in the Mercantile Building at Schoolfield and living at 628 Wilson Street in 1923-24. Harry Kirios was listed as living at 539 Patton Street where the Danville Public Library now stands and operating the Uneeda Lunch Room, the Liberty Pool Room and the Liberty Cigar Store and Hat Cleaners. Charles Kirios, also living at 539 Patton Street, was operating the Sanitary Café at 106 South Union Street. In 1927, Albert D. Kirios, whose wife was Aglean, was living at 628 Patton Street and was listed as operating the Schoolfield Café, the Schoolfield Electric Shoe Shop and the Schoolfield Fruit Stand, all on West Main Street in Schoolfield. In 1929, Harry Kirios was living at 539 Patton Street and was operating, often with partners, Liberty Lunch on West Main Street in Schoolfield, Liberty Cigar Store and Liberty Pool Room at 242 Main Street, Uneeda Lunch at 125 Craghead Street, Schoolfield Wiennie Stand at 1017 West Main Street in Schoolfield and Schoolfield Electric Shoe Shop and Schoolfield Café in the Mercantile Block in Schoolfield. After Harry’s death on July 5, 1930 at age 50 many of his businesses were taken over by his former partners and the Schoolfield Café was operated for a short time by his widow, Mary, who was already in the process of raising five children, Maxine, age 14, Alexandria, age 13, James, age 11, Marie, age 7, and Billie, age 5. Bill Robanus, Harry’s uncle and his mother’s brother, then took over the management of the restaurant and its name was changed from Schoolfield Cafe to Schoolfield Lunch. Robanus continued to manage the restaurant with the help of a brother-in-law, Tommy Kolendrianos, until his death on November 22, 1947 from an attack at the place of business at age 47. William (Bill) Michael Robanus was born in Leonidion, Greece on April 23, 1900, a son of Michael and Angie Bacallas Robanus. He came to the United States when he was eleven years old and made his home in New York City before coming to Danville in 1919. He operated a business on South Union Street for several years before taking over the management of Schoolfield Lunch. After the death of Bill Robanus, the two sons of Harry Kirios, James and William (Bill), now grown to maturity, took over the management of the restaurant. Bill Kirios had been working in the restaurant since age 14. He was in military service from 1951 to 1953, but returned to the restaurant after his discharge. Until 1957 the restaurant’s interior was a long, narrow space with a marble lunch counter stretching from the front to the back of its space. In 1957 the shoe shop which had occupied the space adjacent to the restaurant closed and Schoolfield Lunch was expanded into that space and the horseshoe counter for which the restaurant became so well known was installed. James Harry Kirios died on March 3, 1997 at age 77, having been born on October 26, 1919. After his death Schoolfield Lunch continued to be operated by Bill Kirios until it closed in 2010, a victim of the demise of Dan River Inc. and other local businesses whose employees had supported the restaurant

Schoolfield Lunch occupies an important place in the history of Danville. It was a place where local people went to eat and visit with one another for many years. Many people who left Danville would come back and visit the restaurant over the years and it was a place where graduates of Schoolfield High School loved to visit and reminisce. It will be missed.