Rehoboth mourns Gus Svolis of Gus & Gus Place

Icon founded Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk eatery in 1956
October 6, 2020

Story Location:
Gus & Gus
15 South Boardwalk
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Gus Svolis, the founder of Rehoboth Beach’s iconic Gus & Gus Place, died Oct. 6 at the age of 90.

Son Billy Svolis made the announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page the same day.

“This is going to be hard for me [to] write,” said Billy. “My father passed away this afternoon. Knowing him, he went fighting. He survived cancer, a massive stroke, the covid virus all around him, never getting infected, but his heart couldn't endure any more.”

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Gus opened Gus & Gus Place on the corner of Wilmington Avenue and the Boardwalk at the age of 25 in 1956. When Gus & Gus opened, it had only one service window fronting the Boardwalk. The restaurant was destroyed in the Storm of ‘62 and Gus took the opportunity to rebuild with a second service window on Wilmington Avenue.

The morning following the death, Oct. 7, the restaurant wasn’t open, but Billy and Gus’ other son George were in the kitchen figuring out the details while working through their grief. Svolis had been battling health problems for a number of years, including a severe stroke in June 2018.

“He called him Superman. I called him the Tank,” said Billy.

Despite the ongoing health problems, George said it came as a surprise when they got the call that he was being rushed to the hospital. He said they still don’t know exactly what led to his death.

“Something happened, then boom, boom, boom,” said George.

Both sons said as much as Gus loved talking with customers, he loved talking with the media too. Over the years, he had been interviewed a number of times by Cape Gazette reporters.

In a 2005 interview, Svolis said he remembered the late 1950s and early 1960s most fondly.

“Probably, that’s because they were my single years,” he said with a wide grin. “I gave my bride, Voula, her engagement ring in 1963, and since then my family and my business have been my life. And when summer rolls around each year, my family grows, because all my old friends and customers are a big part of my summer family. I look for familiar faces on the Boardwalk every day.”

In a 2010 interview about how weather affects summer business, Svolis, 80 at the time, said he wasn’t sure why he kept coming back.

“I just can’t stay away from this place. Don’t ask me how I’ve done it for 55 years. I just keep doing it myself. Working day and night. But I can tell you one thing about this summer – it’s hot!” he said.

Voula is still alive. They would have celebrated 57 years of marriage next Tuesday, said George. “They didn’t quite make it, but we’ll give it to them.”

George said the family brought her down to the restaurant shortly after Gus died.

“We didn’t stay long, but she wanted to stand in his spot,” said George, tearing up, pointing to the counter on the Wilmington Avenue side. He said, “That was his spot.”

George said employees – past and present – have told them the restaurant should open this weekend because it’s what their dad would have wanted them to do.

“I don’t know,” he said.

Billy and George said they, and sister Stacey Giatas, appreciated all the well-wishes that have been extended their way since their father’s death, especially from past employees.

“When you work here, you work with us, not for us,” said George.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with past quotes from Gus Slovis and comments from Gus’ sons Billy and George Slovis.

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