Thomas Doxanas, who lent his name and investment savvy to the Double T Diner chain, died Wednesday of pneumonia at Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, Fla. He was 81 and had earlier lived in Perry Hall.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he founded the first four of the popular stainless steel restaurants that served milkshakes, meatloaf dinners and rice pudding 24 hours a day. Emblazoned in neon advertising lights, the diners were the epitome of 1950s roadside dining.
His entry into the local food business was modest. He opened a small Rutland Avenue lunchroom in the 1940s near Johns Hopkins Hospital, but discovered the city location did not work well.
He looked at maps and found property in Rosedale off U.S. 40, then a bustling East Coast traffic artery. In 1956, his first Double T opened. It was named for the T's in Thomas Doxanas and Tony Papadis, a business partner who died about 30 years ago.
The site proved successful. Mr. Doxanas saw the automobile as the source of business and acted accordingly.
"When the Beltway started being built, he chose sites along it -- at Catonsville, Pikesville and on Loch Raven Boulevard," said his son Dr. Marcos Doxanas, an ophthalmologist who lives in Ruxton.
His Catonsville diner had enough land so that he could include a bakery. Its ovens supplied the other diners with the chain's signature desserts -- banana cream pies and almond crescents, a type of macaroon.
Mr. Doxanas found that not all his locations were golden. His Pikesville diner, which opened in the early 1960s, was not a success and he closed it. When he opened his last restaurant in Baynesville, he chose a new name -- Bel-Loc Diner.
"My father was good at locations, but he didn't cook much," said his son. "He could make a good rice pudding, however."
The son of Greek immigrants, Mr. Doxanas was born in Wierton, W.Va., where he graduated from Wierton High School.
He served in the Army Corps of Engineers as a staff sergeant during World War II.
A sports enthusiast, he supported his sons' school teams -- both at Perry Hall High School and at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., where he purchased the lacrosse uniforms for the team in the 1960s. In 1972, he retired and sold his interest in all his diners, except for Bel-Loc Diner, where he remained a consultant. The chain continues, with a new diner opening last week in Bel Air.
Mr. Doxanas moved to Stuart, Fla., and became a member of Stuart Yacht and Country Club. He spent his days playing golf.
He was a member of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Fort Pierce, Fla.
He married Virginia Gulas in 1947. She survives him.
Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Greek Orthodox Cemetery, Chapel of the Resurrection, Windsor Mill Road.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by another son, William Doxanas of Lutherville; a daughter, Stephanie Genin of Clarksburg, W.Va.; and five grandchildren.