Old Hamlin, serving homemade goodness since 1929.

October 30, 2014
Chris and Marsha Papadakos

Chris and Marsha Papadakos

This news service is brought to you free through the generosity of our advertisers. This series, Business Spotlight, features those great businesses. Today, we present Old Hamlin Restaurant, located in downtown Ludington.

By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – As the oldest family restaurant in Mason County, Old Hamlin Restaurant’s owners still believes in serving the community homemade food at affordable prices. Chris and Marsha Papadakos have a long history together and they have the restaurant to thank for a lot of it.

Chris, along with his two brothers, Tom and George took over the family business in 1972, but before co-owning the restaurant, Chris worked there, along with his future wife, Marsha.

Marsha came to work at the restaurant in 1969.

“My first day was New Year’s Day in 1969,” she says. “Chris and I met at the restaurant and we were married in October of that year.”

The Old Hamlin started out in 1929 as the Castlewood Restaurant and it was located on the south bayou of Hamlin Lake, which now is the home of the Country Haven Resort. Owned and operated by Chris’ relatives, the restaurant then moved to its current location on Ludington Avenue in 1942.

“It has been in the same family the entire time it has been open,” Marsha says. “It’s pretty neat.”

Chris and his brother George came to the United States from Greece in 1967 to help at the restaurant that their relatives owned. Having never been to the United States before, both brothers didn’t know any English. Marsha says Chris and George would go to the high school for an English as a second language class taught by Ludington High School teacher Harry Knuckles. Chris later received his American citizenship during the 1970s and hasn’t looked back.

In 1975, after the three brothers had co-owned the restaurant for three years, Tom decided to leave the restaurant, leaving George and Chris to run the business.

“It was just George and Chris for a long time,” Marsha says. “George retired in 1996 and now we run the restaurant.”

Chris and Marsha also purchased the building next door to them, that was the home of Maria’s Cuisine in 1996, adding onto the restaurant to offer more seating and kitchen space.

Chris and Marsha currently still run the business and their presence in the restaurant can be seen on a daily basis. Chris still works in the kitchen and Marsha works the front of the house, as well as assisting in baking their famous homemade bread. Assisting Marsha in the never-ending demand for bread is Denni Agens, who Marsha says was a real life saver after she broke her shoulder Mother’s Day weekend this past year.

“Denni baked for me everyday since Mother’s Day,” Marsha says. “She is a great person and never complained.”

Old Hamlin bakes its homemade bread in the apartment upstairs from the restaurant and in the off-season they make 24-30 loaves each day. However, in the summer they can go through 100-150 each day.

“Our homemade bread is our number one thing,” she says. “We can bake 24 loaves at once. I always wondered how they got that huge oven up there.”

Besides the famous homemade bread, Old Hamlin almost makes everything on its menu from scratch. They roast their own turkey, roast beef and prime rib, along with making homemade stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and more.

“There are very few things that are pre-made,” Marsha says. “How much more homemade can you get?”

Old Hamlin employs 10-12 employees during the offseason, but they employ 50-60 people during the summer months.

Marsha and Chris both say the restaurant business is all that they have ever known and it is amazing that for so many generations Mason County has support their well-being and family.

“We love being on Lake Michigan,” Marsha says. “We love the area and the people and it’s interesting to meet people from all over the country.”

Marsha and Chris continue to work as hard as they did the day they took over the family restaurant and they are curious to see if they might be in the running to be one of the oldest family-run restaurants in the State of Michigan.


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