by Don Radebaugh
In 1916, [World War I had already been raging in Europe for two years while President Woodrow Wilson contemplated America’s move on the world chess board. On the much more peaceful home front, Wilson signed a bill creating the National Park Service, the Chicago Cubs played their first game in modern-day Wrigley Field, and] Gus (Mancy) Manosakis, seventeen and alone, left the Greek isle of Crete, not speaking English, knowing no one at his planned destination. Yet, the reward for this wild eyed kid was worth the risk. “My grandfather would always say, ‘a child growing up in Greece always heard the stories about America with its streets paved in gold,’” said Gus Mancy, who followed his grandfather and father into the family business.
All immigrants to America in the early twentieth century traveled through Ellis Island. It was there where Manosakis’ name was shortened to Mancy – giving up part of one thing to become part of another.
“He knew where he wanted to go…he knew he wanted to be in restaurants, but he only had a few dollars in his pocket, and no money to start a business. The best paying job he could find was working in the steel mills in Akron, Ohio. He made a dollar a day, and worked seven days a week. It took him five years working in the mills to save enough money to start “The Ideal Restaurant.”
Ideal by name and location
The year was 1921, and Gus Mancy, along with his cousin Nicholas Graham, opened their first restaurant on Phillips Avenue in Toledo. The location was ‘ideal’. The trolley cars out front provided easy access to and from downtown Toledo. There was so much promise in the air. It was the beginning of the “Roaring 20s”, a period of sustained economic prosperity.
“When the depression hit, they worked harder. They were bound and determined not to fail. They were literally open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It wasn’t until ’46 when they decided to close on Christmas Eve. It was the first time they had ever closed the restaurant. They had to call out a locksmith to make a key because it was never locked, ” Gus relates.
In 1964, it became Mancy’s Ideal; then in ’73, it became Mancy’s Steakhouse. The name changes in ’64 and ’73 coincided with watershed moments in the family business.
“In ’64, the second-generation– my father John Mancy and his brother George took over. They bought out Gus and Nicholas. But my grandfather Gus continued to work every evening at the cash register. He passed away at 90 and worked here on the last day of his life.
The original building on Phillips Avenue, had three distinct rooms and served initially as an Oldsmobile carriage dealership. A portion of the building was renovated to become the restaurant.
In 1973 the building caught fire and burned to the ground (only the wooden-carved clown that greets customers today in the front lobby survived the fire). They moved into the building next door and we continue to operate from there today.
“Our grandfather and fathers built a great legacy here. We have big shoes to fill. People have come to expect great food, great service and honest value. Getting there didn’t happen overnight.” Gus is part of the third generation of Mancy’s; they transitioned into ownership roles in 1989.
“Each generation had the opportunity to listen and learn from the generation before. Our grandfather established some very unique principles to live by. We’re all students of the business. We were all dishwashers, busboys and cooks. My cousin Nick is a very successful attorney, but he felt his calling was to come home…back to the restaurant business. He came back and started Shorty’s. My cousin Mike is my partner here at the Steak House.”
“The second generation never forced us into this business. They told us, if you do decide to be in this business, you go out and take your lumps from someone else first. In the 80’s and 90’s, we all worked for different restaurant corporations. The philosophies and principles we all learned from our grandfather and from my father John and Uncle George were invaluable.”
Outside experience brought home
“My brother George worked with the Bravo Italian chain when they had just one or two stores. He turned that experience into Mancy’s Italian. My brother John is a graduate of Ohio State. He relocated to Philadelphia as an executive chef. Then he came back home and was our chef (at Mancy’s) before he opened the Bluewater Grille in 2005. It’s a family partnership across the board.” Mancy’s Restaurant Group, includes the Steakhouse, Mancy’s Italian Grill, Mancy’s Bluewater Grille and Shorty’s True American Roadhouse.
Through all of the changes at Mancy’s Steakhouse, one thing remains constant, the 5-star quality of the food.
“We still adhere to the same time-honored recipes, processes and traditions the generations taught us. One example would be our French onion soup. Without revealing all the secrets, we have an 80% blend of beef and veil stock that takes 15 hours to make…and that’s just one recipe, one example. Our bread is made from scratch every day. Our butcher is here every day.”
Partners Gus and Mike continue to invest in the grand ole edifice that define Mancy’s.
“We literally gutted this place and completely renovated the restaurant… we’ve spent a million dollars renovating over the last 18 months. We’re ready for the next 20 years and more. This is our home, and we work very hard to ensure that our guests are at home here.”
Gus’s partner in the family business, his cousin Mike, George Mancy’s son, said, “Our grandfather and fathers built a great reputation. They’re gone, but their great work ethic remains. Gus and I are here most of the time. We have to be here to succeed. It’s not enough to pop in every now and then. We know that part of our success is our great employees. Some on our staff have been here for more than 30 years… one lady here worked for my grandfather. Toward the future
“We’re working from the business model our grandfather and fathers taught us, but we also understand the world’s changing and we’re doing our very best to stay ahead of it,” Gus continued. “We have an online reservation system… we continue to invest in our products, renovate our space… we’re in a constant state of improving everything we do. Like our grandfather, we strive to be the best.
Like their grandfather and fathers before them, the third generation continues to insist on the best and freshest ingredients. In addition to the quality steaks, the Alaskan red king crab, coldwater lobster and fresh fish are flown in daily from both coasts. Fresh-baked bread, sauces, and desserts are made from scratch daily, and most recipes are those handed down from generation to generation.
With commitment like that, the 100th anniversary of the business, in a half dozen years, is assured.
Menu: Mancy’s Steakhouse
Renowned for their steaks, there’s something of quality for everyone on the menu, including an attractive wine list, pork chops, succulent lamb chops, shrimp, swordfish, whitefish, huge lobster tails and Alaskan king crab legs, all satisfying on their own if you should decide to go without steak as an option.
“Our steaks are aged and hand-cut on premise, seared at 1500 degrees and expertly prepared.” – Gus Mancy
Like their grandfather and fathers before them the third generation continues to insist on the best and freshest ingredients. In addition to the quality steaks, the Alaskan king crab, coldwater lobster and fresh fish are flown in daily from both coasts. Fresh-baked bread, sauces, and desserts are made from scratch daily, and most of the recipes are those handed down from generation to generation.
Mancy’s Steakhouse, 953 Phillips Ave. 419-476-4154 | www.mancys.com