When Bill Nicklow, 72, tried retiring from the restaurant business a couple years back, it just didn’t work for him.
“I got a little bit bored,” said the aged but lively Nicklow, who opened Little Tony’s restaurant at the beginning of February. “I’m glad to be back again,” he said.
The small restaurant has a diner-like feel and is located next to Oak Street Cinema at Washington Avenue and Oak Street Southeast. Nicklow said the food is appropriate for the college culture because it’s fast and cheap.
“Around here, everybody’s in a hurry,” he said.
The menu is intentionally simple, featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken wraps and homemade cookies. “You can’t be everything,” he said. “You have to do what you do best,” Nicklow said.
Gyros and pitas also make appearances on the menu, paying homage to Nicklow’s home country, Greece. He was born in Thisvi in 1938 and came to Minneapolis with two brothers and his mother in 1954 after World War II both ravaged their town and took the life of Nicklow’s father.
“Poverty and hardship brought me to Minneapolis,” Nicklow said.
Since that time, however, the family has done well in the United States, where the restaurant business is a family affair.
Nicklow’s son, Tony, owns Tony’s Diner in Dinkytown, and his two brothers and their sons own Downtime Bar and Grill in the Dinkydome.
Tony Nicklow has lent some employees of Tony’s Diner to his father’s establishment for the time being, and he said he will assist in other ways if necessary.
Currently, two employees run the store with Nicklow, according to Antonio Yshagnei, one of the employees.
“We’re the same family, pretty much the same business,” Tony Nicklow said. “Each of us is there for each other.”
Tony Nicklow said he is pleased his father is back in the business.
“It’s good for him; it keeps him busy,” he said.
The elder Nicklow said that while one benefit is staying busy, he is also glad to be a part of the campus atmosphere – especially with the new stadium, which he said gave him “goose pimples” at the first game.
Business was slow for Little Tony’s first week.
“I was pulling my hair,” Nicklow said.
But more customers have stopped by gradually over time, Yshagnei said.
“I can see the light in the tunnel,” Nicklow said. He said the restaurant will likely hold a grand opening ceremony in March.