- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Opening the pub in his 20's, Stan Slosek, center, a Nashua native and city sports icon, is celebrating the 48th anniversary of Stan's Place on West Hollis Street. Photographed with him are Lori Gifford and Skip Perkins.
- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Pub owner Stan Slosek receives a hug from Simone Duquette Thursday, February 23, 2012, at Stan's Place on West Hollis Street. Slosek, a Nashua native and former high school football star and city sports icon, is celebrating the 48th anniversary of his bar.
- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Stan's Place on West Hollis Street.
Cheers to a Nashua icon for 48 years
Forty-eight Februarys ago, iconic downtown retailer Philip Morris was offering an impossible deal: Tennessee Ernie Ford’s newly released “Book of Favorite Hymns” for a mere two bucks.
Grant’s was having one of its “Krazy Days Sales,” and fresh fowl was 29 cents a pound at Kennedy’s.
Champagne’s, all four 20th Century markets and First National competed for your food dollars – and gave S&H Green Stamps.
Friends rallied behind beloved city butcher Yanco Gabletsa, who the Nashua Housing Authority wanted to evict and tear down his 30-year-old shop because “it was in the way of the urban renewal project.”
And on West Hollis Street, in a generational little diner known over time as The Ritz, The Embassy, Moe’s Cafe and Romie & Mary’s, a robust, husky young man who wanted “only to be a millionaire” sat with his new landlord, signing papers and forking over $50 in exchange for a set of keys that opened the front door – and much, much more.
Stanley Slosek, for generations a household name in Nashua synonymous with sports, friendship, generosity and Budweiser, was 25 when he took a chance and reopened Romie & Mary’s in February 1964, christening it Stan’s Place and praying his old football, baseball and basketball teammates, at least, had a thirst for cold, 20-cent steins of Budweiser.
They did. And so did boatloads of non-athletes. They flocked to the homey beer joint around the clock, sliding onto the same squeaky, edge-worn benches that endure, perhaps many coats of paint later, to this day.
They came from their homes, their sleepy, ho-hum downtown offices, the nearby factories and corporate ivory towers for lunch, after-work wind-downs or both.
Likening Stan’s to TV’s famous Cheers seems appropriate – and indeed, more than a few Stan’s loyalists have slurred “It’s Nashua’s Cheers!” over the years. But the label falls short of capturing the true essence of the tiny, frozen-in-time watering hole where “everybody knows your name” only scratches the surface.
It isn’t a case of willful neglect that Christmas lights hang year-round in Stan’s. Or that the hard, wing-backed benches and vinyl-topped barstools are the same ones Stan’s’ first customers used.
It’s no accident many of the signs, photos and trophies lining the shadowy walls were there in the LBJ and Nixon administrations. The duct tape holding together a spider-webbed corner of the front window may be old enough to vote, and most of the fluorescent ceiling light fixtures have been bulb-less since Denny Sullivan was mayor.
Things aren’t broken, obsolete, worn out or threadbare at Stan’s. They have character. The same goes for decades’ worth of humans, as uncountable as they are diverse, who call 58 W. Hollis St. home.
“Oh, for years. Many years,” a regular named Pat said in answer to one of the most common questions at Stan’s: “How long you been comin’?”
“I’ve made a lot of friends. Everyone loves Stan. Look at that,” Pat said suddenly, pointing to neat stacks of 5s, 1s and quarters on the dented aluminum bar in front of Slosek. “He even buys his own beer!”
“Yep, still pay for my beers,” the lifelong owner, chief cook and bottle-washer said, flashing the ageless grin everyone recognizes. “Got to. Can’t put myself out of business, right?”
Slosek laughs, hinting in so many words that profit isn’t what it used to be, no doubt a reference to the days when he and two, sometimes three, servers ran flat out for hours at a time. This day, it’s just about noon when the handful of customers suddenly swells to a couple dozen.
Sue Greenleaf, a Stan’s bartender/server for 20 years, exercises the same patience her many predecessors perfected.
“Excuse me. Comin’ through,” she announced, sliding smoothly around tipsy targets in deep conversation like an Olympic slalom champ. Narrow to begin with, it doesn’t take much to encumber the path to and from the bar, kitchen and booths.
It isn’t a hassle, mind you – just another part of the charm of Stan’s.
It’s from his favorite barstool – second one from the right – that the larger-than-life Slosek holds court for two or three hours, mostly on Thursdays and Saturdays. He warmly reminisces, recalling too many friends and regulars lost to the great watering hole in the sky. The smiling eyes steel a bit when he assesses 50 years’ worth of societal changes.
“Yep, it’s the same as it always was,” Slosek said of his iconic surroundings. “Ya know, I hate today, the way things are. Back then, things were great, it was a great time.”
“Hate” is an exaggeration, but Stan is clearly a man who revels in his Nashua of old.
A visitor mischievously pushes a button: “So, Stan, you don’t have a computer cash register yet?”
“No, no, no. Nope, never will.”
“You must be online at home, no?”
“No way. Nope, don’t need it, don’t want it.”
“Little Stan – winning smile – many friends – immovable guard on the gridiron,” begins the brief bio opposite Slosek’s photo in the 1956 Nashua High School yearbook. As offensive tackle, Slosek protected quarterbacks Don Bazin and Sammy Paul; as middle guard on defense, he made plenty of running backs pay. These were Nashua’s glory days, the heart of the famed Buzz Harvey-Tony Marandos reign, some of Slosek’s fondest years.
The first seeds of what would become Stan’s Place were sewn in Durham during Slosek’s freshman – and only – year at the University of New Hampshire.
“I had a part-time job at a cafe in Dover, and I really enjoyed the business,” he said.
Done with college (“I don’t like to read much. … If you don’t like to read, don’t go to college.”), Slosek searched his hometown for a place where he could earn a living doing what he enjoyed.
Romy & Mary’s was empty, so he found the owner, who turned out to be the Rev. Henri Brodeur, a priest at neighboring St. Louis de Gonzague Church.
“I asked how much. He said $50. … I said, ‘$50 a week?’ He said, ‘No, a month,’ ” Slosek recalled. “I thought, ‘Jeez, if I can’t make $50 a month …’ ”
The deal sealed, Slosek sought out “Uncle Sam,” the uncle of old friend Joe Bellavance and part of Nashua business mainstay Bellavance Beverage. Sam Bellavance added Stan’s Place to his route. To this day, the standing order for 58 W. Hollis St. hasn’t wavered: Bud, Bud Lite and Michelob are the extent of Stan’s’ cocktail menu.
“It was slow at first, but eventually we did very, very well,” Slosek recalled. “Oh, boy, did I make a lot of friends. … Ya know, I’m not making (much) money anymore, but I love the place. I’m not going anywhere.”
Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Saturdays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 594-6443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.