Dino's Departure Leaves A Hole In Center Of Harwich Port

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Harwich Port , Business , Development

Constantine "Dino" Kossifos holds a sign stating the closure of the restaurant he operated in Harwich Port for the past 14 years. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH - The closing of the Dino's Harwich Port Grille, a local breakfast mainstay, has left a hole in the center of the village.

For close to 50 years, residents were drawn to the breakfast eatery to debate politics and discuss local goings on.

But the tradition came to end a couple of weeks ago when Constantine "Dino" Kossifos closed the door after 14 years of serving eggs and home fries seven days a week, 364 days a year to customers he now considers "loyal friends."

Dino is quick to pull out the accolades that claim his breakfast as number one and his coffee the best in town. The sign on the grill hood states "Daily Special: Walnut Pancakes with butter, syrup - $4.95."

"The hardest thing to me was saying goodbye to my customers. They are a wonderful, loyal people," Dino said on Friday while he was cleaning out the restaurant he entered at 4 a.m. almost every day for 14 years. The building, one of the only ones with a parking lot abutting Route 28 in the village, is empty now. There were four commercial units in the 4,700 square-foot building, but one by one as leases expired tenants were not given renewals and were required to move out.

Dino's lease is scheduled to expire on May 31. Dino said in March he wrote the property owner to see if he could get an extension through Labor Day, but he was denied. He closed two weeks ago to provide time to clean out the restaurant.

When asked to talk about his favorite memory, Dino said, "I can't pick one memory here from the so many I've had. It's the appreciation of the customers coming up after breakfast and saying it's the best I've ever had. The accolades were humbling, but I never let it go to my head. I'm proud of what I did."

The property was sold by Cranberry Realty Trust to 525 Camelot with an address in Charlotteville, Va. The managers of the business entity are Paul and Diane Manning. The property, which includes a 27,800-square-foot lot, was sold for $915,000. The Mannings had previously purchased the Camelot Inn on the corner of Route 28 and Pilgrim Road for $570,000 and own a home on Harbor Road.

There have been discussions with the town's planning department about tearing the structure down and constructing a new building to correspond with the Harwich Port Village Overlay District, which seeks to have properties being redeveloped have buildings along the street front with parking in the rear.

Attorney James Stinson, who has served as the resident agent for the property owners, said this week no plans for the property have been filed with the town to date. Stinson said they are trying to reach agreements with the abutting property owners, Cranberry Liquors to the west and Richard Waystack to the east, so there are no disagreements during the permitting process. Parking is the most significant issue, he said, adding the property's parking lot has been perceived as a municipal lot and used that way for years.

The present structure is expected to be torn down, but exactly when is not clear. Stinson said he did not expect it would be during the summer because it would be too disruptive, but he was not privy to that information at this time. He added the new uses would be a mix of commercial and residential.

There might have been earlier movement in the planning process but the owners, the Mannings, wanted to allow each of the tenants to stay there until their lease ran out, Stinson said.

"I'd like to see them get moving on it," Town Planner David Spitz said. "Dino's is gone and that part is a shame. But to get businesses up front it would have been nice to have permits in place."

"I'm finished here and I accept that, but I don't approve of what he's doing with the property," Dino said. "This parking lot is the heart of Harwich Port. People stop and they patronize all the shops in the area."

Dino said the original building was street side, but it burned down and the town made the owner move it back off the street. He said the town now wants to make Harwich Port like Chatham.

"You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," Dino said. "Chatham has parking. If you put a parking lot behind the building, they're not going to stop. They'll keep going to Chatham. The town should buy this property from the Mannings and make it public parking."

Dino lamented his departure on Friday, admitting: "The hardest thing for me was saying goodbye to my customers. The hardest thing about the whole thing is I had to go on his(the owner's) terms, not mine."

When Dino's purchased the business, which had been at the location for decades, it came with a lease. If he had one at this time, he said, he could have sold the business and it would have helped make for a good retirement.

"But I've come to the conclusion the party is over," Dino said. "God works in strange ways. I closed on May 1, the Greek Easter. It's a time of resurrection. God is telling me to resurrect in a different direction. I'm applying for my passport."

Dino said he plans to go to Greece and visit relatives he has not seen in 50 years. He previously lived in New York, where he said he did some acting on Broadway. Then he ended up on Cape Cod, where he did four plays with Cape Rep Theatre.

"Maybe I'll get back into that," said Dino, now 79. "It's sorta like bittersweet, but I'm not complaining. I'm happy I can do some traveling, I'll put one foot in front of the other and keep on trucking."