Sitting at the long counter of his family’s Ocean Avenue restaurant, Jimmy Prokepes’ eyes begin to water while he writes a heartfelt note on a standard restaurant receipt.
“Ocean Pizza has been operating since 1978. It’s managed to stay in business for 36.5 years. It is time to say goodbye and we would like to say thank you for all the love and support,” he writes.
At first, the simple note is all he and his parents, Peter and Sandy Prokepes, want to say about their restaurant’s closure, but slowly they warm to talking about it.
Within a few minutes, Jimmy, 30, is yelling questions to his parents at the back of the store and, after a short pause, they respond.
The name Ocean Pizza Restaurant doesn’t go very far in telling the full story of the place. Unlike other pizza spots, Ocean Pizza opens early and serves a full breakfast menu.
That’s important for David Sumers and Rudy Cota, two regular breakfast customers. The two sit back to back in adjoining stalls, below a long mural depicting a cluster of villas on the edge of a river with boats floating along it. While Sumers reads the latest issue of the Chronicle, Cota packs to go.
It’s only eleven in the morning, but Cota has been here for hours. He comes in each morning at opening time to help Sandy set up and keep her company before anyone else shows up.
For Cota, Ocean Pizza is a place where he can find “ a good cup of coffee, good friends and somewhere to hang out.”
Ocean Pizza is also Sumers’ regular breakfast spot. “I don’t like making breakfast, so I’m here every morning for breakfast. I got to know everyone, so it is also a part of my social life,” Sumers says.
For Dan Harrington, who grew up on Holloway Avenue, the restaurant taught him the value of hard work.
Ocean Pizza was the first thing he spent money on after becoming a paperboy as a child. After a morning of work, he and his siblings would visit the Bank of America on the corner of Faxon and Ocean Avenue and then spend their money at Ocean Pizza.
“It would be proof that our hard morning of work was worth it,” Harrington says.
He also learned from the Prokepes’ work ethic. “They made me learn that hard work pays off and that it can pay off for the whole community as well,” Harrington says.
Ocean Pizza also served as a send off for the Harrington family home. After the family decided to sell the childhood home, they gathered one more time and ate Ocean Pizza.
On that day, Harrington took the journey from Ocean Pizza to his family home a few blocks away one last time. Memories of walking and deciding whether or not to run home to get there faster flooded back to Harrington.
This time though, he drove with the pizza.
“To have them close within a year of selling the family home hurts,” Harrington says.
The future is unclear for the Prokepes family. Although they are looking at other possible locations, Jimmy laments the long process of getting permitted to open a restaurant at a new location.
For now, one thing is clear; the family will take a few months off.
Update: Ocean Pizza closed at the end of May. This note was posted on their door: