Nov. 26—MANCHESTER — Peter Grady, 66, proprietor of Grady's Tavern at 622 Middle Turnpike East, will be closing up shop soon and retiring from the restaurant business with his wife, Mary.
Though the sign above the door — which was made by a patron, based on erroneous information from Peter himself — says the tavern was established in 2001, the family took over the building and opened in 2002, Mary said.
A military brat, Peter traveled across the country with his family while his father was in the Navy and then transferred to the Air Force.
Who he is: Owner of Grady's Tavern on Middle Turnpike East in Manchester.
Notable: Has been married to his wife, Mary, for 45 years. They met in seventh grade.
His plans: Has put the tavern up for sale, and plans to retire.
"My first memory is I was living in Westover Air Force Base, west of Springfield," he said. "We moved to Omaha, Nebraska. My dad was in SAC, Strategic Air Command. I remember the sonic booms all day."
His father, also named Peter, died in his 30s, Peter said. After his death, Peter, his mom, Leonilta, and his five siblings moved to Manchester, where they had extended family.
"I moved here in third grade," he said.
It was only four years later that he met his future wife, Mary.
"We met in seventh grade," Mary said. "But we didn't start dating until ninth grade."
The couple has been together since; they've been married for 45 years, Mary said.
"We were flying to Florida in the '70s, Peter said. "We stopped in Atlanta and we were having a cocktail. A guy said to me, 'How can you picture spending the rest of your life with one person when there's so many beautiful people in this world?' I said, 'I just couldn't imagine not spending the rest of my life with Mary.'"
"He's a good guy," Mary said of her husband. "He's got a kind heart."
The two have three children, Peter Grady III, Deanna, and Jim.
After high school
When the two graduated from Manchester High School in 1974, Peter said, he became a Teamster, loading and unloading trucks at a warehouse in Windsor Locks.
"After I got laid off there, I went to Fannie's Kitchen for maybe a year," he said. "Mary was working there then. That was somewhere around '85. I was a short order cook."
In 1988, he said, he got a job with Aetna, monitoring large scale human relations print jobs for 10 years until their department was sold off to Moore Printing Company, until he was laid off.
Through all this time, he said, he would cook.
"I started cooking when I was 12," he said, "I was the oldest of six. So I cooked a lot."
"He always liked to cook," Mary said. "He used to make homemade pizzas and throw them in the air. He worked at that Italian restaurant for a while too."
Also, during that time, he would visit a small tavern, going back to the 1970s called The Green Tavern, where he would play cards with friends.
"This place opened in 1910," he said. "It's probably the oldest restaurant in town. When it opened in 1910, people lined up to the highway. This was a very busy area over here. The road was the Boston Post Road. The stagecoach stopped here.
"In 1982 it was changed to the Buffalo Water Tavern," he said, with about half the property being a package store and the other half being the tavern. Then as the millennium was turning, he heard that the tavern was being sold.
"I heard that the owner, who I knew since 1969 or so, that he was trying to sell it and it fell through," Peter said.
Went for it
"When I was laid off (from Moore)," he said, "I made the weird decision. Let's take all this retirement and we decided, let's go for it."
"I thought it would be fun," Mary said. "Our oldest son, Peter, he had graduated high school and was at Manchester Community College. We talked to him about maybe coming in with us and he agreed."
"We took all the family food and tried to bring it into here and serve it to our customers," Peter said. "It worked out well.
He said he is grateful for all the support from his customers.
"We love the customers," he said. "All the customers are just wonderful; 99.9% of the people that you meet are really great people. The appreciation for our food and our drinks, it's overwhelming."
The menu itself has mostly stayed the same since the Gradys took over in 2002.
"It's not far off of what we started with, soups, burgers, and sandwiches," Peter said. "We cut back on quite a few of the appetizers, but we still have wings and onion rings, fries."
Peter said he is blessed and a little bit proud about their success, and hopes that somebody will come around and continue the legacy.
"I hope it would be nice if they could keep it as a tavern or a restaurant," Mary said. "There's not a lot of this style restaurant in the area. It's like a neighborhood bar."
As to what Peter and Mary will do when they retire, the have some minor plans, but not too much yet.
"We'll find something," Peter said.
"We have a lot of yard work," Mary said. "You concentrate on this to keep things going, and everything else kind of gets pushed to the back."
"I have a brother down in Florida that we've hardly ever visited," Peter said. "I'd like to go down there for a couple weeks."
"We have a lot of grandchildren, seven grandchildren, so I'd like to spend some more time with them," Mary said. "The job consumes you. You miss weddings and birthday parties and family events and so you're always stuck here."
For coverage of local restaurants, cultural events, music, and an extensive range of Connecticut theater reviews, follow Tim Leininger on Twitter: @Tim_E_Leininger, Facebook: Tim Leininger's Journal Inquirer News page, and Instagram: @One_Mans_Opinion77.