“A Bellingham Institution” Honored on 75th Anniversary
Dec 31, 2015 06:00AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
Bill & Eleni Coniaris of Pete's Blue Bird
Pete’s Bluebird Restaurant is one of Bellingham’s most notable landmarks, and on Monday night, Dec. 7, its owners, Bill and Eleni “Stammy” Coniaris, were presented with a plaque and a proclamation from the Board of Selectmen, congratulating them on the establishment’s 75th anniversary as a business serving the community. The restaurant, which is noted for its juicy steaks, was bought by Peter Coniaris, a Greek immigrant, in 1940, and he and his wife, Georgia, operated the popular eatery for years. Now managed by their son and daughter, it’s been featured on The Phantom Gourmet television show and been frequented by some high-profile professional athletes.
The generosity displayed by the restaurant’s current owners, who have contributed to a plethora of local causes and organizations, was emphasized and also noted as part of the proclamation, which was read by Jerry Mayhew, the Vice Chairman of the Selectmen.
“Your restaurant is a Bellingham Institution,” said Mayhew, “and the Board of Selectmen want to recognize you for being good citizens who’ve contributed much to many adult and youth groups in Bellingham throughout the years. You’ve got a heart of gold.”
The proclamation also noted that “most recently Pete’s donated thousands to a native son (Master Sergeant Joe Deslauriers) who was disabled after three tours of duty in Afghanistan.” Other fund-raisers conducted by the Coniarises include a car show and a golf tournament. Some of the groups who’ve benefited from their generosity include Tufts Veterinary Hospital, Bellingham schools, athletic teams and military veterans.
After accepting their plaque and proclamation, Bill told the Bulletin:“We’re very honored and grateful for the recognition. My sister and I are proud of this town, and we’re glad we can offer support to groups and help with local causes.”
The restaurant, which previously was the Bluebird Café before it was bought by Peter Coniaris, has a blue and white exterior and is located on Route 140 (Mendon Road), a short distance from Bellingham center. Displaying many sports trophies, pictures and other memorabilia, the restaurant has had its share of visits from well-known sports professionals.
“I’ve always been a sports fan,” Bill said. “One of my favorite visitors was Bernie Carbo, the Red Sox outfielder who hit a big three-run homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. A friend of mine from Milford brought him in for a steak, but my friend didn’t know how much I admired Carbo. When I saw Bernie, I was surprised. We talked for hours and he signed autographs for people who gathered around.”
Other sports figures who’ve dined at the restaurant include John MacKenzie, Rick Middleton and Brad Park of the Boston Bruins, and Steve Nelson, a star Patriots linebacker of the 1970s and 1980s. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ ace reliever during the 1960s, Roy Face, visited the restaurant after he retired. “Roy knew Bill Cummings, who was Bellingham’s health agent,” Bill recalled. “He autographed some baseballs and photos.”
The restaurant has sponsored men’s and women’s softball teams, which rewarded Bill and Eleni with championship trophies; and the restaurant and lounge were filled with patrons the day Bellingham High’s softball and baseball teams battled for state championships in Worcester. “That was on June 14, 2014,” Bill said. “People were trying to get the results and when both teams became champs, the place was full of excitement. It was a great day for the town.”
The Andelman family, who promote The Phantom Gourmet, are frequent visitors to the restaurant since buying the Mendon Drive-in.“Dan, Dave and Mike, along with their father, Eddie, are here often,” Bill said. “When they filmed our place for the TV show, Sean Finley did the video. He’s a Franklin guy.”
The restaurant also has played host to international visitors—government and military personnel from Israel being the latest. The group was negotiating a business venture with Tony Khoury of Bellingham, who developed and sells a complex appliance that simulates extreme temperature conditions for aeronautical purposes. When their business dealings were completed, Khoury took the Israelis to the restaurant, where they enjoyed a steak.
Whether the restaurant is hosting a Pop Warner football group, a reunion or a political gathering, it’s usually bustling with activity. Pete’s Bluebird Restaurant, as the plaque says, is indeed “a Bellingham institution.”