Tributes to the Eastern Market greengrocer Christopher Calomiris adorned the familys stand over the weekend.
Calomiris represented Eastern Market's old guard, a disappearing generation of purveyors who have seen Eastern Market grow from a food-only business centered in the large brick building to a sprawling flea market that often resembles a street fair.
Chad Glasgow has seen the changes, too. Glasgow, 62, is the second-generation owner of Southern Maryland Seafood, one of the original Eastern Market merchants that now is located across the hall from the Calomiris' stand. "He was a real gentleman, and this is the end of an era for this market," he says. "The oral history of this place is slowly disappearing with all the old fellas."
"I guess that makes me the oldest guy here," says Ray Bowers, who at 78 is still running Bowers Cheese, the dairy stall that has abutted the Calomiris' stand for more than 50 years. "We all wait our turn."
Calomiris' life reads like a textbook example of the American dream, woven with long-lost Washington landmarks: Born to Greek immigrants in Northeast Capitol Hill, he grew up in a home on the site where the Senate office buildings now sit. As a kid, he joined his father's produce business at Center Market, then a bustling food market on the site now occupied by the National Archives.
When that market was razed, the father-son duo moved to the New Center Market at 5th and K streets Northwest, and finally joined a group of merchants called the "Cen-East" cooperative that re-located to Eastern Market in the early '60s.
That's where the business has remained, in about the same spot — except, of course, when the market temporarily relocated across the street following the fire in 2007. Maria and Chris' children, Tom, Leon and daughter Zoy, all worked at the market, although Zoy is now a teacher at Bethesda Elementary School.
The couple has five grandchildren: Zoy's three children and Tom's two stepchildren.
Now, Calomiris is quite literally an Eastern Market landmark. A sign across from the brick building depicting the market's history features a large black-and-white photo of him. Taken in 1978, the picture shows him trimmer and with a little more hair than passers-by might recognize from recent years. But he exists in the frame the way he is remembered: an apron tied around his waist, arranging fruit under the stall's familiar sign with its old-fashioned lettering. He is working.
A viewing is scheduled for Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Joseph Gawler's Sons Funeral Home in Chevy Chase, followed by a Monday burial. The family asks that donations be made to the American Cancer Society.