HIGGS: Sitting in on The Plantation gambling trial

Norma Higgs

Last time we learned about Leo Dardarian, an immigrant from Armenia who started his restaurant career at the old International Hotel as an apprentice butcher and later talked Louis Rosenbloom, the owner of Louis’ Restaurant at 103-107 Falls St., into hiring him as a dishwasher as he needed more money in order to send to his family in war-torn Armenia following WWI.

Following the retirement of Rosenbloom, Leo took over part ownership with Sam Friedman. The pair was ultimately very successful and during May in 1948 they had closed for a two-week shutdown for dining room renovation.

The Niagara Falls Gazette edition of May 5, 1948, announced the grand re-opening with a redecorated dining room and a re-equipped kitchen at a total cost of about $50,000. “The kitchen of the restaurant, which was founded in 1913, was designed by a corps of engineers, and represents the latest advances in the field sanitary and efficient food preparation and handling” noted the Gazette. It was finished in stainless steel with tiled walls, an acoustic ceiling and a new, modern air conditioning system. They announced that from now on no food would be exposed prior to service. Other amenities included a new dish and silverware washing equipment, an automatic and glass lined iced-tea cooler and other scientifically controlled temperature items for various types of food.

Another announcement in the Niagara Falls Gazette later that year, on Aug. 18, 1951, was the Incorporation papers filed by the Armenian Church which was a long, hard process with Leo Dardarian acting as treasurer and he spent many hours raising funds and working with others to see his dream of a local Armenian Church in Niagara Falls. Directors included Edward J. Mooradian of 432 Memorial Parkway, Michael J. Kerkorian, 256 12th St., Kerrigan Sarkissian, 419 – 12th St., Paul H. Ghougasian of 717 4th St., Howard Toorigian of 8300 Pine Ave., Sahag Dosdourian, 327 10th St., John Koshian, 10 Falls St., Peter Kazarian, 219 Main St. and, of course, Leo Dardarian of 619 Orchard Parkway.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held the following June of 1952 and the completed church was consecrated on Sept. 12, 1953. It was the first consecration in the ancient rite of the Armenian Apostolic Church on the Niagara Frontier. The nearest church was in St. Catherines and Ontario Archbishop Tiran Nersayan, the prelate of the diocese, officiated. These had to be proud moments for Leo Dardarian and the entire Armenian community involved. He was also active in various civic organizations.

Back to Louis’ Restaurant – it was not until Aug. 1, 1958 that Dardarian and Friedman, co-owners of the restaurant finally were able to purchase the building at 105 Falls St. from the estate of the late Josephine Hoyle who had lived in Tonawanda but spent her remaining years in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their business had been located for more than 50 years at the Falls Street location which had a 55-foot frontage on Falls Street and had two stories. Included was an easement entrance into First Street. The purchase price was not stated in the Niagara Falls Gazette edition of Aug. 5, 1958.

Later that year an interview column quoted Mr. Dardarian as noting the “People are apt to regard the restaurant as rolling in money earned the easy way. He is his own boss and once he has built up his business he has little to do but watch the crowds swarm in, some believe.” Envy would disappear when they found that he often worked a seven-day week of 10 to 12 hours and most of the time was spent in the kitchen supervising the preparation of dishes.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, 1959, Leo Dardarian suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at the restaurant at 12:30 p.m. and died at Memorial Hospital at 9:45 p.m. His doctor said Mr. Dardarian did not regain consciousness after the attack.

Today we can compare him to Aldo Evangelista, long-time owner and operator of LaHacienda on Pine Avenue. I knew Aldo to be of the same demeanor and he rarely left the kitchen and in fact died there recently. He also ran a tight ship and it was noted for the great food and excellent service. He will be greatly missed.

As for Louis’ restaurant – his wife Anna became co-owner with Samuel Friedman. The building was destroyed by a multi-alarm fire on June 30, 1967. The fire was reported to have started in a second floor woman’s restroom and a dozen customers and 30 employees were in the building at the time but escaped unharmed. Acting manager Dominic Bianca estimated the damage to be over a half million dollars. Mr. Friedman stated in a Niagara Falls Gazette column of June 15, 1968, that the building would be demolished shortly. He said the lot would remain vacant as it was in an area slated for urban renewal.

Stay tuned for some more “good eats and good times.”


The city of Niagara Falls — celebrating 125 years of history. Contact Norma Higgs by email at niwahigg@aol.com.

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