A stalwart of the downtown Riverhead business community passed away this weekend.
Tony Meras, longtime proprietor of Main Street’s iconic Star Confectionery on Main Street, died Saturday at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. He was 90 years old.
Meras and his brother Peter ran the old-fashioned ice cream parlor and luncheonette, affectionately known to locals as “Papa Nick’s” —nicknamed for their father Nicholas, who purchased an ice cream shop and candy store there in 1920. Nicholas Meras expanded it to a luncheonette, serving breakfast and lunch daily, in addition to homemade ice cream and holiday chocolate candies. Tony Meras started working at the luncheonette as a child. The second generation took over the business in the 1970s. Meras’ wife Kitty ran the business with him for 25 years. Their son Anthony, who runs Papa Nick’s today, starting working at the restaurant in the early 1990s.
After he retired, Tony Meras still spent his time at the restaurant where he enjoyed homemade ice cream every day.
The luncheonette, a favorite hangout for teens in a bygone era, remains a breakfast and lunch staple for local business people and families, who enjoy the original early-20th Century ambiance, in addition to the classic American fare.
Riverhead attorney William Andes, who has lunch at Papa Nick’s “at least three times a week,” remembers his father taking him and his two brothers there for an ice cream cone on the day the family moved to Riverhead in the summer of 1969.
Andes later worked there as a dishwasher during summer and holiday breaks as a college student.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Andes said. “The Meras family is a great family, very hard-working, very friendly, very well-loved.”
Working at Star Confectionery is the only non-photography job Kaitlyn Ferris has ever had. She started working there at age 14 and in some ways, has never really left, despite having built her own photography business. She continues to help out with chocolate-making on during busy days, like the Country Fair. “The Star” was her main job for about 10 years, she said.
“Tony was just a grandpa from the start,” Ferris said. “Anyone that got to know him, he fulfilled that role. He was kind of the town grandpa,” she said. “A very warm guy — and just hilarious. The stories he would tell — we would just crack up. He’s the center point of every memory I have of being there.”
Ferris recalled that Meras dabbled in photography and when she began shooting professionally, he offered to help her out. “He told me he was available now on weekends if I needed a second shooter,” she said. “He offered to roll the film,” she laughed.
Glenwood Village owner Brian Stark said the Merases are longtime family friends.
“They are salt of the earth, good people,” Stark said. “I’ve never head anyone say an unkind word about anyone in the family. They are genuine.”
Stark recalled his father Bruce played golf with Tony Meras. “There was always lots of laughs every time we went in there. They’d be talking about their golf swings and joking,” he said.
“My Dad would go there for breakfast with (Suffolk County National Bank President) Bob Dick, (Allied Optical owner) Saul Steiner and (Ivan Shoes owner) Herb Dresher. They called it the Breakfast Club,” he said. “They’d talk about the bank, about whatever was gong on in town politics,” Stark said. “It was the socioeconomic vortex of Riverhead right there,” he said.
“I have lots of fond memories of that place,” Stark said. Tony and Kitty are always at the center of them.
“He touched so many lives in that little store of ours. He was the engine of that place, he let me drive it for awhile,” his son Anthony said in a Facebook post announcing his father’s passing Saturday night. “He loved my Mom Kitty to no end and loved his grandchildren Zoe, Sophia, Alex and Ava with a passion that had no bounds. I’m sad but all the laughter and funny memories will keep our family smiling,” he wrote.
Anthony Nicholas Meras was born in Riverhead on Aug. 23, 1931 Meras was the son of Nicholas and Marina (Stavropoulos) Meras. He was a graduate of Riverhead High School and served in the U.S. Army in 1954-1955.
He was predeceased by his wife Catherine (Kitty) in 2016, by his son, Nicholas, in 1996, his brother Peter in 2016 and his sister Matilda Delahanty in 2016. He is survived by his son Anthony, his grandchildren, Zoe, Sophia, Alex and Ava, and his daughter-in-law Ann Meras-Guzewicz.
Visitation will take place Wednesday, Oct. 6 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, 111 St. Andrews Rd, Southampton. A funeral service will be held at the church immediately after the visitation hour, at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Riverhead Cemetery.
Arrangements are entrusted to the care of Tuthill-Mangano Funeral Home in Riverhead.
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