Just around the corner from 69th Street on Market Street in Upper Darby, was the Arrow Restaurant, a fixture at the height of Upper Darby’s Greek community. From the 1960s through the 1980s it was a destination to enjoy a great meal and be seen. It was perhaps the center of the Greek community.
Greek Cypriot John Soloman was one of two partners that owned and managed the famed destination. If you wanted to know what was going on in the Greek community, or around the region, you asked John. He was the eyes and ears of the town. He could give you the inside scoop on everything while having a great meal. You always left satisfied from the Arrow Restaurant.
Soloman was born and raised near Famagusta Cyprus, where he attended an Evangelical Mission school. He was still a teenager when he arrived on a ship on February 5, 1950. He worked in different restaurants while living with his uncle in Philadelphia. He attended Dobbins High school, where he was the captain of the soccer team that was all refugees and he was the lone immigrant. In one of his matches, the referee introduced him to another school captain, a well known future Greek leader of the community, John Countoudis, who played for Central high.
Soloman went on to Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1959 where he spent six years. He graduated from cooking school as a sergeant in the Army Reserves in1964. Upon his release from the Army, he continued to work in various restaurants until 1966, where he saw his opportunity.
The Greek community was flourishing in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, especially around 69th Street in Upper Darby. He opened the Arrow Restaurant with a friend in May of 1966. They named it the Arrow because the neon sign outside the store from the previous restaurant was only half lit and flickering the word Arrow. The store was very popular into the 1980s when an accidental fire burned the store down in 1983. The store was rebuilt and opened months later, in 1984. But changing times around the area and a Greek community that was now moving into the suburbs of Delaware County sounded the end of an era. In 2001 he sold the store which was converted into a series of small shops. Upper Darby was a different community by now, and Upper Darby’s Greek town had dissolved.
Today, he lives in San Francisco with family, but still flies back and forth to work at various Greek festivals throughout the year. It seems John’s love affair with food and his Philadelphia community is simply to rooted in his sole.
Originally published on Cosmos Philly by Eleftherios Kostans. Video by Vasilis Keisoglou.