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St. Clair Shores

December 5, 2012

Coney Island coming to Harbor Master location

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

A Jefferson Avenue institution for more than two decades, Harbor Master’s proprietors have closed the restaurant’s doors.

More than two decades ago, David Miller and his partner, Paul Nahra, opened a restaurant on Jefferson Avenue — Shores Barbeque. That name stuck around for about a year before the pair saw potential in the space and added 30 feet on to the back before re-opening as Harbor Master restaurant.

“We’ve been there ever since,” Miller said. “I figured, well, I’m 68 and it’s just time to retire and back off.”

Miller said he made the decision about a year ago and put the restaurant up for sale. It was sold at the end of October to the owner of Universal Coney Island on Harper Avenue at Outer Drive in Detroit and will re-open as a Coney Island restaurant.

“The sweetness is that, you know, taking a 50-pound bag of potatoes off your back and setting it down,” Miller said. “My health is more important, so I figured I’m just going to enjoy the rest of my life, and I retired.”

The restaurant business, Miller said, kept him busy seven days a week, at least nine hours a day.

“It’s not just like going there and managing,” he said. “You go there and you’re chief cook, bottle washer, you name it. You never really say to yourself, ‘This is all I’m going to do.’ You can’t do that.”

Louie Economopoulos, who runs the Dockside Café, said he took his family to Harbor Master on Sundays after church.

“It was quiet, it was low-key,” he said. “I think it was very, very popular with the seniors.”

He said the new proprietor would likely have good luck in the city, as well.

“He probably will find a good niche because we have National Coney Island at each end of the city, and he’s pretty much midtown St. Clair Shores,” Economopoulos said.

“I’ve been in the Shores a long time,” said Nahra, who also opened the New York Deli restaurant in the city.

Miller, Nahra said, “took care of everything.”

“We’ve been here 22 years and he wants to retire,” Nahra said. “I like people. People are the most important things in the business.”

Miller agreed.

“Customers are excellent, I’ve had a lot of good relationships with my customers,” he said. “I had a guy stop and he said to me, you know, ‘Why did you leave? I love this place. Why did you go?’

“That made me feel good. I just said, ‘I’m going to retire.’”

The restaurant was a family affair for Miller, with his wife and children putting in hours at the eatery. He said he’s most concerned for his employees but, “I got to move on. They all respected that.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.