For almost 50 years, Pete's Place on Main Street in Annapolis was the place to go to meet friends, shoot some pool, have a beer.
The clientele ranged from local teen-agers to lawyers to midshipmen. "Admiral" David Robinson, a Naval Academy graduate turned pro basketball player, and Napoleon McCallum, a midshipman who went on to a career in the National Football League, are said to have shot a few games at Pete's during their days in Annapolis.
The billiard hall-turned-restaurant shut down almost six years ago and another tavern took over, but people haven't forgotten Pete's Place. The second annual Pete's Place reunion will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at its former site, now Acme Bar and Grill, 163 Main St.
"It's a nice tribute to a couple who ran a family business for nearly 50 years," said Roy Dunshee, owner of Acme. "The small-business man doesn't get a big retirement party, so this is a way to honor him."
Pete Palaigos bought the pool hall, called Brunswick Billiard Hall, in 1947 from George Pappas, when he married Pappas' daughter, Helen. Back then, Palaigos says, Main Street was a collection of small businesses, which mostly shut down by 9 p.m.
"It was all mom-and-pop shops," Palaigos said last week. "It was quite a sleepy little town."
The newly married couple quickly developed a routine: Helen opened the doors at 9 a.m., and Pete turned out the lights at midnight. "It was the perfect marriage," Helen joked.
The narrow pool hall, which had six tables and a bar, quickly picked up the name "Pete's Place," known for its kosher hot dogs. It was a hangout for local kids, who would drop by to see Pete when they were home from college.
"We knew each one of them," Pete said. "It was like a family."
Palaigos and his wife had a front row seat for the changes on Main Street. They remember when family businesses started moving out in the 1970s.
"Now, Main Street is alive," Pete said. "It draws all kinds of people."
In 1987, the Palaigos took on a business partner and turned the pool hall into a bar and restaurant, serving a variety of food. The pool tables were sold to customers. It continued to be called Pete's Place and had plenty of regulars, but the owners were spending less time there.
Then, after seven years in the restaurant business, they decided to lease the building to Dunshee.
"We wanted to retire, and our children didn't want the business," Helen said.
Helen is 75 years old and Pete is 77, but age hasn't slowed them down too much. They drop by Acme almost daily.
Dunshee said a lot of the regulars from Pete's Place continue to frequent his establishment and former midshipmen sometimes drop by asking for Palaigos. "Pete's Place" remains spelled out in colored tiles on the floor.
"They'll leave notes for Pete and then take a look around in wonderment," Dunshee said.
The festivities this year will feature 1987 prices and other specials, said Frank Yates, who worked at Pete's Place and organized the event. Fliers have been sent to regulars and pasted in the window at Acme.
About 50 to 75 people showed up for the reunion last year, and Dunshee said he expects his restaurant and bar to be packed for this year's celebration.
"It's not about Acme, though," Dunshee said, "it's about Pete's Place."