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A Hell’s Kitchen building which last sold for $77,000 is on the market for $26 million in an astonishing appreciation in value, and the culmination of a classic New York story of immigrant grit for a Greek couple who scraped together the money to buy it 49 years ago.
Anchoring the western end of Restaurant Row, 662 9th Avenue and its sister building 373 W46th Street currently house longtime local favorite Hourglass Bistro and Yum Yum Too Thai, as well as eight apartments. The 7,500 square feet of commercial and residential space in a prime location commands an asking price of $26 million.
But when Christos and Tina Sideris bought the buildings in 1973, they were far from being the property tycoons or big businesses who are likely to make offers on it now. Rather, Christos was working in a shop across the road, his son John Sideris told W42ST the story last year, as he took charge of Hourglass.
“My father and mother are both from Greece, the Peloponnese. He’s from Sparta and she’s from Tripoli,” John Sideris told us. “He ran restaurants there. He was always an entrepreneur. He got into the shipping business. He landed in Brooklyn, over at the Navy yards, and he just fell in love with New York.
“He was working at the corner store across the street. So that’s how he got the rumor about the building for sale. This was 1973, he bought both the properties for $77,000 total — this building and the building next door,” said John. Adjusted for inflation, $77,000 in 1973 is now $547,000, showing how property value growth in Hell’s Kitchen has far outstripped spending power.
The Sideris family stuck with their love of New York throughout the tough times of the 1970s, and in 1983, transformed 373 W46th Street into a restaurant for a tenant. Tina helped David Ludtke — who owned Mike’s American Bar and Grill on 10th Avenue — set up his second restaurant in the area, then called the Hourglass Café.
Then in 1992, the couple took charge and it became the Hourglass Tavern. Originally, there were tenants living in three small apartments above the Hourglass, but when the family took over the restaurant again they paid the rent control tenants to leave, to offer dining on all three floors.
The menu changed weekly, and the quality of the food attracted the interest of many — including royalty. “I remember as a kid getting the chance to meet Princess Diana and the Sultan of Brunei. They wanted my father to cook, and they drove us to Connecticut. I still have the picture of him with the Royal family,” shared John.
The family kept up with a system first put in place in 1983: the use of hourglasses to tell diners when their time at the table was up. “It’s part of the game we play!” a menu from the early 1990s read.
When Christos was stricken with chronic emphysema in 2009, the family turned the keys over to the hourglass to tenants Beth Sheinis and Josh Toth, who ran the Hourglass and opened the wildly popular second floor Bettibar until both closed in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic shutdown.
The couple became beloved parts of Restaurant Row in their own right, with Bettibar’s five-hour hour making it a fixture. But the grim economic picture for Restaurant Row meant they called time in September 2020.
“What we’ve knocked out from this hovel and done in this space has been miraculous! It takes a special group of lunatics to get it right from literally a 200yr old closet,” said Beth at the time. “I will miss this quirky, unique building from hell that has herself tried to take me down more than a few times, and failed.”
At the time there were warm tributes to Beth and Josh, summed up by Tom Viola, the Executive Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, who said: “This is a terrible loss to W.46th Street and Ninth Ave, certainly Restaurant Row and all of Hell’s Kitchen. A city that now will be much less for the loss.”
John Sideris reopened the Hourglass in 2021 — this time as the Hourglass Bistro+Bar — and reworked the Bettibar space as an extension of Hourglass. Sideris even returned a few of the restaurant’s working hourglasses to keep time at every table, and put several vintage menus on display as an homage to the café’s origins.
Last year he told W42ST about the feeling of pride in a restaurant which first opened the year he was born, 1983, and which had 11 years out of the family’s hands: “When Beth and Josh took over the place, they did a phenomenal job. They did a great job. They kept the tradition. Now looking back, you can comfortably say that this place has had decades of amazing goodwill.”
John told us that these days Christos and Tina spend most of their time in Greece — but they still take an interest in what’s happening. “They were very worried about me possibly changing the name — but I love the concept, I love the hourglasses. Also, we all agreed that we would work to retain as many of the staff as we could. So they are very happy,” John said.
Now, the historic restaurant may be headed for a new chapter as the building goes on sale. W42ST reached out to Sideris for comment on the sale and will update if we hear back. The sale listing says the new owners can take the buildings with their existing tenants or without.
The listing notes the potential to add 5,000 square feet to the existing footprint, meaning the corner site could be subject to large-scale redevelopment. Regardless of the Hourglass’s fate, there may be quite a few buyers who will bite, owing to one small throwaway line in the property listing: “A Time Square area expansion is also being considered and this building would fall under the re-zone.”
A regular mortgage plus taxes on the building would cost $143,485 a month, StreetEasy notes — just short of double the amount Christos and Tina Sideris paid for it in 1973. Who will buy? Only time will tell!