Jimmy Makris calls off two annual events as sign of respect for his late brother Greg

  • Jimmy Makris ran the restaurant as a team with his brother and now that his brother is gone, Jimmy has to figure out how to venture forward. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jimmy Makris sits in the Makris Lobster and Steak House in Concord on Tuesday before it opens to the public. He ran the restaurant with his brother Greg Makris, who died unexpectedly last week. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jimmy Makris and his son, Nick, sit in the empty Makris Lobster and Steak House on Tuesday in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Makris restaurant bartender Karrie Bovee on Wednesday, June 11, 2019 says the whole establishment has been affected by the loss of Greg Markris last week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/11/2019 5:38:39 PM

Tuesday’s annual Bike Week motorcycle ride, from the Makris brothers’ restaurant to a pre-chosen stretch showing the state’s wide-open beauty, was canceled.

So was the annual golf tournament, a fundraiser for Concord Hospital scheduled for later this month.

Jimmy Makris is calling the business shots for the family since his brother, Greg Makris, died suddenly earlier this month, sometime during the darkness between June 2 and 3. He had a heart attack, Jimmy told me. He was 70.

These two events, annually coinciding with Bike Week, which began last weekend, were canceled because of this family tragedy.

Not postponed.

Canceled.

“Respect,” Jimmy, 66, told me in the parking lot, explaining the cancellations. “Respect for my brother.”

We moved inside Makris Lobster and Steak House and, like outside, found dark clouds there as well. No one had much to say, their thoughts elsewhere.

Employees prepped for the upcoming lunch crowd. The aprons they wore and the coleslaw they spooned onto little plates and the ice they chopped were routine procedures, but this was – and is – hardly a routine time.

Jimmy sat down in the bar off the main dining room. He wanted to talk about his brother. The coffee in his clear glass mug was black, the area under his eyes puffy. Greg – Jimmy’s brother, business partner and best friend – was gone, and you could see the effect on Jimmy’s face, the sorrow. The restaurant business means lots of hours, and, with recent events, those long hours are now therapeutic for Jimmy and his staff, not tiring.

“You get moments,” Jimmy began. “There’s downtime, and then it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s get back to work.’ You need to focus on what needs to be done here.”

Bike Week means early summer, riding in groups, late nights, big crowds on the strip running along Weirs Beach. The restaurant has always served as one of the unofficial headquarters for the event, a common meeting place that had food, owners who loved to ride and lots of beer.

And it was more, because of Greg. He took it upon himself to serve as an ambassador for Bike Week. He planned the annual ride, the one that was canceled Tuesday. He’d take a dry run, a different one each year, searching for routes that would show out-of-state visitors what the Granite State had to offer.

“He wanted to plan it so people who had never been here before could see different parts of the state,” Jimmy said.

He made sure to always limit the trip to about 200 miles. This year’s version was created two weeks ago. Jimmy and Greg drove their motorcycles, with Greg showing the way, mapping it out, making mental notes, forever trying to offer what New Hampshire had to show, our lakes and mountains and trees and charming small towns.

This trip to scout out the 2019 ride was interrupted by a Memorial Day parade in Loudon. So the brothers turned around, got on Interstate 93 and drove through Boscawen and Danbury, past Squam Lake, into the White Mountains, up to the Woodstock Inn Brewery, near Lincoln.

That was to be this year’s version of Greg’s annual ride. He told Jimmy they had logged 220 miles. A little more than his usual mileage count, yes, but certainly within the range he had always aimed for.

Two weeks later, he was gone. Bob Miller of Concord, hired as a cook at the Makris restaurant two months ago, worked with Greg on that Sunday, Greg’s final time in the restaurant that he opened with Jimmy 27 years ago.

“He just didn’t seem the same,” Miller told me, shortly after arriving for his Tuesday shift.

Greg felt discomfort in his legs that night. So he went downstairs to watch television. He died in his chair, found the next morning.

That’s when friends and family started telling stories about Greg’s plans to retire to his second home in Florida, riding his motorcycle, soaking up the sun, enjoying the fruits of his labor. He had mentioned July 29 as a starting point for his new life.

Maybe he’d stick around now and then, maybe come north, work part-time, help out his business partner. But Greg was tired. Lots of 80-hour work weeks.

“He wanted to get out of here, relax on the beach in Daytona, mow his grass, build a fence and take a ride on his bike,” Jimmy said. “That was his thing. He became a fanatic over the last five years.”

Semi-retirement would have given Greg the chance to do something else he loved: put his pre-school aged granddaughter in his motorcycle sidecar and take her for a spin.

Until then, Jimmy said he and Greg would continue their rotating version of good-cop, bad-cop, a playful way to motivate their employees while making sure they realized that they were valued members of the staff.

Greg, Jimmy said, was tough but fair.

“He was a hard-ass,” Jimmy said, “but if you did your job you were fine.”

Carrie Bovee, a lifetime family friend whose mother went to school with the brothers, has been bartending at Makris for a year. She said Greg was “drop-dead gorgeous.”

“It’s been pretty somber,” Bovee, breaking up ice behind the bar, continued. “The glue that held this place together. He built a well-oiled machine, and as long as you did what he said, it would always be a well-oiled machine.”

The family was all about work ethic, ever since Greg and Jimmy’s grandmother arrived at Ellis Island, moved to Boston and settled in Manchester, a member of a Greek community who never learned English because she never had to.

The family also endured tragedy years ago, when Jimmy and Greg’s brother, Stephen, died from a drug overdose, bouncing in and out of rehab and eventually working as a master electrician before their parents found him dead one Christmas Eve.

Now this. To get an idea of what people thought of Greg, look no further than the wake held last week at Wendell Butt Funeral Home in Penacook, where the line of about 1,000 people, some of whom waited three hours to get in, stretched down Washington Street and continued to the pharmacy facing the rotary.

They wanted to say goodbye to the man who always wore a chef’s hat and a smile, who always brought 100 lobsters down to Daytona during that city’s Bike Week, and who once made a plate of clams for a bride whose wedding was held at the restaurant and who had mentioned to Greg, jokingly, that she loved clams.

“He was too nice,” Jimmy said, smiling for one of the few times during our chat. “He liked to give people a deal.”

His death, Jimmy said, has brought the staff closer together. They rearranged their shifts to make sure all could attend the wake.

They haven’t met with Jimmy yet to discuss current feelings or future plans.

“It’s still surreal,” Jimmy said. “It won’t hit me until after Bike Week.”




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