Economou Restaurant ~ Along the Turnpike
In the early 1930s, the Kaprelian family established a free-range turkey farm and built Pineland Gardens on the Turnpike. The facility was an outdoor picnic area regularly frequented by Armenian families. A restaurant with living quarters on the second floor was built on the Turnpike by Minas Kaprelian as part of the complex. The restaurant closed for the duration of World War II for business reasons. Kaprelian also built a seasonal farm stand that sold fresh vegetables, fresh turkeys, beer and wine.
In 1946, Pineland Gardens was reopened as Dutchland Farms, owned by Rhoderick Owen and Sven Erickson and operated by Charlotte and Eugene Owen and Olivine Erickson of Leicester. The farm stand was remodeled into a Shell gas station between the Kaprelian home and the restaurant. In July 1948 the gasoline station caught fire and burned to the ground. Owen had closed the station for the day and went to dinner at the restaurant that his wife and sister-in-law ran. Mrs. Kaprelian saw the fire and called it in, but by the time the fire department arrived it was too late.
In 1949 the mortgage was foreclosed and bought at auction by Thomas L. Brown who reopened as Jane Brown’s Restaurant.
From January 1951 the restaurant was leased and managed by Thomas (Taoma) Economou as Drakes Restaurant and Candy. In 1953 it closed for renovations and reopened as the Economou Restaurant -T Club and managed by Thomas, his son Steve (Stavros) and later Paul (Prokopi) Economou. Paul was the nephew of Thomas who sponsored Paul when he immigrated from Greece to America. The Economou family lived in an apartment over the restaurant. The Economous capitalized on the location by specializing in fresh, roasted turkey that was provided by the Kaprelian‘s Turkey Farm located directly behind the restaurant.
In 1956 Paul Economou married Lilllian (Ylekeria) Gatzoyiannis. Lillian, a Greek immigrant who fled the Communist regime during the Greek Civil War in 1948 at age 15. Lillian was finally reunited with her siblings in Worcester in 1950. Lillian’s brother was Nicholas Gage who wrote a biography of his mother, who was murdered by ELAS guerillas during the Greek Civil War. The book, entitled “Eleni,”was published in 1984 with a movie that followed in 1985. Gage wrote a subsequent book, "A Place for Us," and others. Eleni was Eleni Gatzoyiannis, the mother of Lillian Economou and Nicholas Gage. Mr. Gage recently returned to the family name of Gatzoyiannis.
In 1958 Thomas retired and returned to his homeland in Greece while his son Steven relocated to Marlborough and established the Marlboro House of Pizza. Paul went to work at Bay State Abrasives and in 1970 he and his wife Lillian established the Westboro House of Pizza. Paul died in 1993, and Lillian in 2012. Today, sons Spyro and Fred manage the Westborough House of Pizza.
In 1963 T. Leo Brown sold the restaurant to Daniel and Gloria Trafecante, who renamed it the Bonfire Club. It remained in business until 1985 when the restaurant was purchased by Leo Mencoboni for $130,000 and named the LaCucina Restaurant with an Italian menu. In the 1990s it was called Willy’s Texas BBQ Grille and operated by Fred Willis, a former professional football running back with Cincinnati Bengals 71-72 and Houston Oilers 1972-76.
In 2002 the Mencoboni Trust sold the building to Ryan Development LLC, which demolished the old building and built a self service car wash named Primrose Touchfree Car Wash. Glenn R. Parker