If walls could talk, the nondescript storefront at 4033 E. Main St. could reflect on its many lives during its 94 years.
Parts of the gabled second floor of the facility -- currently Bailey's Glass and Mirror -- stood at ground level when Gus and Margaret Soteriades bought the property in 1946 for the next location of their chain of Gus's Fine Foods restaurants around Columbus.
"As the story goes," said their son, Chris Soteriades, of Columbus, "my father bought a racehorse, and my mother, being the conservative, bought land, and that's how they ended up there. It was Dad's second stand-alone restaurant, which he owned without partners. His first one was at North High Street and West Fifth Avenue.
"The building had only a cesspool behind it," Chris said, "and since it was going to become a restaurant, my father paid to have the sewer line run from Barnett Road."
It remained "fertile" ground, however; Chris recalled there was large cattle barn behind the house, "and when we tore it down, my father grew cantaloupes that were bigger than watermelons, because the cows had been there for so long,"
The family lived in an adjacent large brick house at the west edge of their parking lot, on a slight knoll that remains today.
"My mother later rented rooms to the men who built that (Landmark) granary near the freeway off Hamilton Road," Chris said. The house remained there until it was razed in the 1950s and the land became a part of the Big City department store parking lot.
Gus had immigrated at age 14 with his given name of Constantine, "but he went by the name of Gus -- a lot of Greeks did that," Chris said.
He was a cook at the High-Fulton restaurant at South High and Fulton streets in Columbus, where Margaret was a waitress. When baby-sitters were scarce, she sometimes had to bring her infant daughter, Cola -- named after St. Columba -- with her to the restaurant, and the owner would place the baby on egg crates under the register as Margaret waited tables.
Margaret was raised on the farm of her parents, Dominic and Carmella Casbarro, at East Broad Street and Napoleon Avenue, where the Kahiki Supper Club later would stand. Their farm extended south to East Mound Street.
Growing up on a farm meant hard work for her. Among her chores was to haul a horse-drawn wagon around the area to collect garbage to feed to the farm's livestock.
"She would go around and lift the back of the full wagon when her brothers couldn't," Chris recalled wryly.
All of the family worked at the restaurant, including preteen Chris and his late brother, Jim -- who later assumed the nickname "Herk" -- doing cleaning and cooking, and Cola -- now Cola McGruder -- who mused that "we worked our buns off," as she recalled serving as both cashier and waitress.
Chris said his parents "made it a family-type operation, and the prices were always geared to the average guy, with a lot of home-style cooking.
"We probably seated 80 people. It was always fun on Friday and Saturday nights when probably 40 percent of the clientele were coming out from Bexley."
Maizzie and Ed Feinstein, parents of renowned entertainer Michael Feinstein, were frequent patrons, he said.
"My dad was a fanatic about cleanliness," Chris said.
"He had a guy named Aniverse Ross working for him who would clean the restaurants at night after leaving work at Timken Roller Bearing. My brother and I worked for Mr. Ross, and when we'd clean the grease-collecting troughs over the stoves (after our third try), he'd say, 'Mr. Gus is going to be on my fanny -- now get up there and do them again!"
Gus and Margaret lent money to Ross and his wife to buy their first home, interest-free, Chris said.
"That's the summation of what my parents were. They were 'live-and-let-live' people -- that was their motto," Chris recalled.
There was no public transportation, Chris said, so Cola rode the Archidell bus from Zanesville to go to St. Joseph's Academy for Girls. Chris went to St. Thomas Aquinas school aboard the "trolley" bus from Weyant and Main, which used overhead lines to electrically power them. Jim one day fell asleep on the Archidell bus on the way home from school and didn't get off. Cola said he eventually "ended up somewhere very far east of here and someone had to go and get him."
The restaurant was sold in the early 1950s and was expanded in 1955 into a two-story structure.
It has served as auto parts, appliance and glass stores, among others.
Bailey's Glass manager David Fogle observed an unusual feature of the upper level of the building: One must climb a flight of stairs to reach it, then down two more to get to the restroom.
He noted two apartments now are on the upper level, meaning the building can add to its resume of housing its occupants since 1925.
Steve McLoughlin is past president of the Whitehall Historical Society.