3rd generation of Mancys runs its 4 local restaurants

Family cites harmony; Packos rattled by discord

3/15/2013
BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
In May, 1968, customers dine under Tiffany lamps at Mancy’s Ideal Restaurant. The lamps were added, along with circus posters and a pot-bellied stove, about 1964.
In May, 1968, customers dine under Tiffany lamps at Mancy’s Ideal Restaurant. The lamps were added, along with circus posters and a pot-bellied stove, about 1964.

Toledo has had many restaurants that pop up, last a few years, and then fade away, but it has only a few restaurants that have endured over the decades, some run by the same families like the Mancys and some not, like the Packos.

At 7:30 on Friday night, Gus Mancy was at work.

So were his brothers and cousins.

The success of his family’s flagship Mancy’s Steaks and their Mancy’s Italian Grill, the Bluewater Grille, and Shorty’s True American Roadhouse rests on that attention, Gus Mancy believes.

“We’re here. We’re not out having fun. We’re working our business,” said Mr. Mancy, who manages Mancy’s Steaks with his cousin Mike. “We all work six-plus days a week. It’s our business, and we need to make sure our guests are being well taken care of and leave our restaurants happy.

“We do not believe in absentee ownership.”

The foundation of the Mancy restaurant chain is the steakhouse on Phillips Avenue, opened in 1921 by their grandfather Gus Mancy, an immigrant from the island of Crete.

“We take huge pride in being around for so long, carrying on our father’s and grandfather’s legacy,” said Mike Mancy, son of the late George Mancy. “My grandfather, he came over with pretty much nothing. He didn’t even speak English. For him to do what he did, it would be a shame for us not to carry it on, if nothing else to honor him.

“It’s important. And it’s important to Toledo too. We’ve been part of Toledo.”

The elder Gus Mancy and his cousin Nicholas Graham in 1918 opened the Commercial, an around-the-clock diner downtown. The Splendid Lunch on 14th Street followed the next year.

Tony Packo’s, including the East Toledo flagship, is no longer family-owned. Bob Bennett bought the chain after a family feud put the company in receivership.
Tony Packo’s, including the East Toledo flagship, is no longer family-owned. Bob Bennett bought the chain after a family feud put the company in receivership.

On Phillips, at the end of the streetcar line, the cousins founded the Ideal. Under a pressed-tin ceiling, diners at the long counter could order a blue-plate special, maybe a 35-cent full-course chicken dinner, and the doors were open 24 hours.

In the 1940s, the Ideal was a prime lunch spot for Willys-Overland workers. Later it was known as part-neighborhood bar, part-family eatery. In the early 1960s, college-age patrons adopted the Ideal as a spot to hang out, to play cards, to hear folk singers — or to belt out tunes in late-night weekend singalongs.

The elder Mr. Mancy’s twin sons, George and John, took over management around 1964 and added their own stamp — in decor and cuisine. Mr. Mancy’s sons hung large gaslights out front and a new sign announcing “Mancy’s Ideal Restaurant and Oldtyme Saloon.” Inside were antiques and relics to evoke another era — Tiffany-style lamps, a pot-bellied stove, circus posters on the wall.

“It wasn’t planned, but the restaurant is coming to be a steakhouse,” Mary Alice Powell, The Blade food editor, wrote in 1968. Patrons soon associated Mancy’s with high-quality steak dinners complete with extra-large baked potatoes.

That setting was destroyed by a fire in 1973. George and John Mancy rebuilt within a year and reopened as Mancy’s Steaks. Business soared, and Mancy’s developed a national reputation for fine dining in a sophisticated, warm atmosphere.

The elder Mr. Mancy continued to work a double shift six days a week until the day he died, Sept. 16, 1988. He was 90. His sons stepped away as their sons became involved.

“Often people come in looking for my father and not realizing he’s been retired since 1993,” said Gus Mancy, who is John Mancy’s son. Mike Mancy’s father, George, died Nov. 28, 1996. He was 59.

Four-fifths of the third generation went to work at corporate restaurants — Stouffer’s for Gus; Mountain Jack for Mike. George Mancy, John’s son, who runs Mancy’s Italian, worked at Bravo Italian restaurants. John, who is John’s son and runs the Bluewater Grille, was at Morton’s steakhouse. George’s son Nick, who runs Shorty’s, became a lawyer and specialized in labor law, and the family has called on that expertise, Gus Mancy said.

“After all of us achieved some kind of success with these companies, then and only then did we come back to Toledo,” Gus Mancy said. “The second generation did a great job of not pushing us, but allowing us to grow on our own. They saw the seeds growing and then offered us a heck of a lot of guidance and advice.”

Mike Mancy said: “A huge reason we’ve been able to be successful in the third generation where others fail is we all get along.

“We have arguments, yes. We disagree, yes. But at the end of the day, they turn out to be constructive arguments. We get along. We hang out together. Our families hang out together.”

That lack of family camaraderie did in the Packo family’s ability to hold onto the Hungarian restaurants that Tony Packo and his wife, Rose, started in 1932 in a storefront on Consaul Street. The Hungarian immigrants built a nationally known restaurant chain in Toledo based on a secret-recipe hot dog sauce and other classic foods such as chicken paprikas and stuffed cabbage.

Last year, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge ordered the chain sold to Bob Bennett, the owner of a local fast-food franchise, after a multiyear squabble among family members resulted in the business being forced into receivership.

Tony Packo, Jr., and Tony Packo III are still involved in operations for the Tony Packo’s chain, which now operates as TP Foods LLC.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.