Harry's Cafe & Steak has been a staple in lower Manhattan since its opening in 1972 by Greek immigrant Harry Poulakakos. (The famed restaurant for Wall Street powerhouses closed between 2003 and 2006 for renovations.)
The entrepreneur, now 73, remembers what it was like in downtown New York in the weeks after the attacks.
"It was very difficult even to get down here. No cars were allowed down here for a couple of months," he says. "Business was hurting everywhere. We opened Harry's one week after and the funny thing was we had a lot of support. My old customers, they wanted to show support, and we had a very busy week, but for a while we suffered. Business was not that great."Little by little the area started to see signs of life. The Poulakakos family, under the leadership of Harry's son, Peter, decided to expand. In 2002, the family opened the first of what is now 11 pastry shops under the Financier Patisserie name. "Everybody says, 'Why did you do that?' This area is going to suffer. It's not going to develop," the elder Poulakakos recalls critics saying. "We always had a lot of faith in the area," Poulakakos says. "I spent all of my life down here, since the day I came from Europe [in 1956]. I was never afraid. I always told the boys the area is going to come back. It's going to be better than ever, and thank God I was right." The family went on to open a host of restaurants in a then up-and-coming area in lower Manhattan. First was Ulysses Folkhouse in 2003. Two years later, a stone's throw from Ulysses, was Adrienne's Pizza Bar. Four more restaurants opened in 2009-11, with two more restaurant concepts set to open by early next year. "The expansion downtown was perfect. We do more business now than we ever did before," even with a down economy, Harry Poulakakos adds. The family also anticipates a tremendous increase in business downtown when the new towers are finished. "I'm happy because that's where New York started -- downtown -- and it's coming back again. It's a great feeling," he says.
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