We are saddening to learn of the passing of Manuel Loupassi. Manuel was a pillar in the Richmond restaurant business as well as a selfless friend of the Museum. Our sympathies, and condolences go out to his family, and everyone who knew him.
Manuel was born on January 18, 1937, in the small village of Souda on the Island of Crete, Greece during a time of world conflict. As a child, he experienced the ravages of World War II as his father was executed by the Nazis for defending his homeland. From a young age, he developed his skills as a salesman and entrepreneur; skills necessary for basic survival in a homeland that had been destroyed by the conflict. He believed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After graduating high school in Chania, Crete, he immediately received credentials to become a merchant seaman and took the first job he could get. It was not a great one, as he toiled in the bowels of an oil tanker, cleaning its engines. The oil tanker traversed the world: the Persian Gulf, Suez Canal, and Indian Ocean. During that time he rose in rank, finally reaching the bridge. He immigrated to the United States in 1957 at the age of 20, and for a time worked in a coal mine in West Virginia. Fate brought him to Richmond, VA at the age of 21, where he took his first job on Brook Road at the Holiday Inn as a dishwasher.
Manuel was a man of supreme confidence; he believed in himself and knew that if he worked hard and saved his money that eventually good things would happen. “The harder you work, the luckier you get” and “Everything earned, nothing given,” were his monikers, his beliefs, and the sayings that guided Papa Loup throughout his life. Eventually, through hard work and dogged determination Manuel was able to go into business for himself, in a small, unassuming building at the corner of Park and Robinson in the Fan District. The Robin Inn restaurant began prior to his ownership, but it had not done well. He took it over, but did not have the resources to change the neon sign. Consequently, he was stuck with the name; and so it was, that for the next 32 years, Manuel and Carol, his beloved life partner and wife, were the heart and soul of a Richmond restaurant institution. Carol managing the front, and Manuel lording over the kitchen. The restaurant was open six days a week, and every day, every minute that it was open, both spouses were there: working and enjoying their lives together. Manuel took great pride in his life’s work—creating an eatery that generations have come to love and enjoy. Folks may remember his bellowing voice over the restaurant sound system, commanding waitresses to come pick up their customer’s food while it was still hot. Every dish that exited the kitchen for 32 years was individually prepared by one man: Manuel Loupassi. At the end of every evening, he was the last person to exit the kitchen, after he mopped the floor. He did this for two reasons: one was to get his kitchen staff to hurry along with their work so they could leave. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he wanted to show his employees that there was no job that was too small for him. He took great pride in his mopping. In 1995, on his last day of work at the Robin Inn, Manuel dutifully mopped the floor one last time, handed the keys of the Robin Inn to his daughter Niki, and never worked another day at the restaurant.
May his memory be a blessing