Oral History – Andy Canoutas – Part 1: ‘Canoutas Restaurant’

Interview by Ann Hertzer and Jeannie Gordon Article by Ann Hertzler

Andrew Arthur George Canoutas was born January 29, 1935 in Wilmington. Andy’s dad came to Wilmington from Greece in 1923. His mother, Lola Shukri, also Greek, was a British citizen who taught at the Greek school in Wilmington. In 1942 – 46 they lived in Virginia but came to Kure Beach every summer on vacation. In 1946 they moved permanently to the SE corner of 421 and K Ave where Jack Mackerel’s is now.

Andy lived upstairs. Downstairs was the Canoutas Restaurant with full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner- fish, steaks, chops, fried, & broiled; and a lot of Greek salads – one of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives, feta cheese, and a special olive oil and vinegar dressing. When the Ocean Inn disappeared, George Stathis came to work. Son Andy worked at busy times at night running the cash register or waiting tables but not cooking. His dad rented ten rooms and three apartments over the Canoutas Restaurant and beachwear shop.

Andy’s mother had a beachwear shop on the east side of the restaurant on K Street. She also had BINGO sandwiched between the restaurant on the corner and the beachwear shop. Originally, in the 40s, two duckpin bowling alleys ran lengthwise here. Andy called BINGO – “On the first row, B, number 5… BINGO has been called, please do not disturb your card until checked… player could be wrong.” Tourists and local men and women played every night except Sunday. Depending on what type of BINGO you got, winners might get $5, 10, 25, or the big prize at night, $100 coverall. They could play as many cards as they wanted. First they had little windows that closed. Then they used little round plastic chips. When the BINGO ended, his mother expanded the beachwear shop.

Kure Beach Fishing PierKure Beach was called a family town, ’cause families were all that came down here. The only outsiders that came down here was during fishing season. Kure Beach was well known as a fishing beach. A guy on the pier in overalls might be the State Treasurer.

In the 40’s, the business area at K Avenue wasn’t paved. The road was oyster shells. Sidewalks were board walks. Before it washed away, Atlantic Ave. went all the way south to Everhart‟s property. Parking in the center of town was like now – in the middle and on both sides of K. The pier on K had restaurants east of this access road toward the beach. Jim’s was behind the Ocean Inn on pilings. Sam ran the tackle shop behind the ticket office on the pier. Pete ran the snack shop on the middle of the pier.

Dow Chemical had a lot of employees living here in the early 30s to the end of World War II. Dow Chemical site, now in the buffer zone, extracted bromide from the ocean front intake. The brick from the torn down factory was used to build many homes in the county. Dow Road was paved all the way to Ft. Fisher gates. Beyond that was sand. The road forked in front of the Riggins. One road went straight; the left fork to the monument got washed away by one of the hurricanes.

The Canoutas restaurant was the school bus stop, but Andy bicycled or thumbed to Carolina Beach Elementary. In 1950 students were bused to New Hanover High School. Andy had a key to the restaurant to fix himself breakfast – eggs, bacon grits, and toast. If it was raining or cold, the kids came in to wait for the school bus. They got drinks and nabs. It was pretty dark in the winter when they got the bus. Andy would lock up and ride the bus to school – a long trip on a two lane road.