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Restaurant Has Landmark Anniversary

Tally-ho celebrates 35 years in Potomac.

Every now and then, Trish Bailey considers moving away from Potomac. In the end she always stays.

“One of the reasons was not being able to go to the Tally-ho,” Bailey said.

When Bailey started going to Tally-Ho, it wasn’t actually a restaurant. “I’ve been coming here since before it was here,” Bailey said.

When it first started business, 35 years ago in February, Tally-Ho was a soda fountain in the back of the Potomac Village Pharmacy, at the time; the pharmacy was in what was the Gap and what will become Eckerd.

“We had the fountain in the back of the pharmacy,” said Peter Vellios, owner of Tally-Ho.

“He had a little, pink Formica counter in the back,” Bailey said.

Originally, Vellios’ brother, Chris owned the counter with a partner, but the partner wanted out. Peter Vellios had been working as a busboy in Georgetown, and had saved up a little money, so in 1969, he bought out the partner. When he first began working at the counter, there was one traffic light between route 28 and Great Falls, Vellios said.

The brothers, both from Greece went into business together. “This has been a family business for 35 years,” Vellios said.

Peter Vellios married Youlla in 1972. The couple’s children, Christina and Andreas, both worked in the family restaurant from time to time. Both graduated from the Bullis School and the University of Maryland.

In the early ‘80s, Chris wanted to move back to Greece, so Peter bought him out and he and Youlla became the owners of the lunch counter.

In the late ‘80s, Peter Vellios said he found out that the landlord was not going to renew the lease. He found out that what had then been a repair shop and a bookshop in the part of the shopping center that faced Falls Road would soon be closing.

“I wanted to get my own space,” Peter Vellios said.

He moved into the locations and formed one larger space in 1989, where the restaurant still is today.

One of the challenges which they overcame was the menu. At the lunch counter, they just had a grill and deep fryer, so the menu was largely just burgers and fries.

After the move, with a more extensive kitchen, they expanded to include Greek specialties like stuffed grape leaves and moussaka.

They also added pizza.

“I like to say we have the best pizza this side of the Mississippi, Peter Vellios said. “We’ve perfected the dough.”

What keeps Vellios interested in the business is the atmosphere. “I just enjoy being here,” he said.

“I see so many kids grow up in here,” said Youlla Vellios. “I don’t feel like I’m from another country.”

Regular patrons are known to sit on the counters and joke with the staff. “A lot of people have told us we should make this a sitcom,” said Agie Ziotis, who works at Tally-ho. “They think this is a show.”

They have, over the years, tried to retain some of the lunch counter atmosphere. “They haven’t changed for their clientele. They have been true to Potomac,” Bailey said. “It’s fun to have something in your life that you can count on.”