Former Lafayette Coney Island owner George Keros, 87, died

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
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George Keros, one-time owner of Lafayette Coney Island, died at age 87.

The son of the founder of Lafayette Coney Island, George Keros, died Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at age 87. 

Keros was born and raised in Detroit after his parents Vasili and Anastasia emigrated from Greece. According to an obituary listed on the Lynch & Sons funeral directors' website, Vasili opened Lafayette Coney Island in downtown Detroit where a young George Keros was night manager in the early 1940s at only age 10. 

After attending the University of Michigan and serving in the Korean War, George Keros married his wife Mary, in the 1960s and they moved to New York City. They soon moved back to Metro Detroit. 

George Keros owned and operated the famed Lafayette Coney from his father's death in 1970 up until 1991 when he transferred ownership to his employees. According to his obituary, Keros was responsible for the proprietary chili and hot dog recipes that became what set Lafayette apart from other coney restaurants in the region. 

“He was an entrepreneur and a business man and he promised himself that if he was going to combine those two, he would do the very best he could to make Lafayette the very best it could be,” said Bill Keros of his father. “Because he was primarily an entrepreneur, he inherited the restaurant … he had worked there for 50 years … and he inherited from his father and I think he did so scratching his chin a little bit.” 

Bill Keros said his dad was going to take on the family business only if he was going to make it “the best that it would be.”

In 1924, American Coney Island founder Gust Keros had a falling-out with his brother. The brother opened his own restaurant right next door but used different hot dogs and chili.

“It would be something that the family could be proud of,” he said. 

Bill Keros remembers his father George as being loyal and generous. 

"I can’t tell you how many times he would see somebody out on the street (by the restaurant) without a nickel in their pocket or a bite to eat and he would tell me ‘go bring them inside William,’" said Keros. "That happened thousands of times, not once or twice. That happened constantly."

Before he sold the restaurant, Keros and his family moved to Hopkinton, New Hampshire in 1985. In 2017 he moved to Naperville, Illinois where he lived up until his death.

Keros was predeceased by his wife Mary, daughter Serena Mary and brother Anthony. He is survived by his brother John, his sons Steven and William, daughters Leslie and Sandra and five grandchildren. 

The Keros family's story is infamous in Detroit, where the two competing coney restaurants still operate next door to each other.

George Keros' father Vasili was the brother of Constantine "Gust" Keros, founder of American Coney Island. The grandchildren of each brother have different stories detailing which coney opened first. Constantine's family says American was first. Bill Keros said American was a hat and shoe shine shop and didn't start making coneys until after his grandfather opened Lafayette Coney Island in 1924. 

Visitation is set for 3-8 p.m. Friday at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home, 1368 N. Crooks in Clawson. A funeral service will be 11:30 a.m. Saturday at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 43816 Woodward in Bloomfield Hills. Keros will be buried with military honors this spring in Hopkinton. 

Memorial donations can be sent to Alternatives for Girls, 903 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit; or Capuchin Soup Kitchen,1820 Mount Elliott in Detroit;

Twitter: @melodybaetens

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