CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- His father was Spyros Stanley, Charleston's iconic parking lot king, an uneducated Greek immigrant who developed a miniature business empire.
Deno Stanley had a lot to live up to. But he's filling those formidable shoes just fine, thank you.
First off, he owns two restaurants, a new one at Boulevard Towers and the Adelphia Bar and Grille on Capitol Street. He owns Village Auto on Elizabeth Street and oversees the many businesses and properties left by his dad.
For years, he made a good living as a respected studio drummer. He's a self-taught mechanic, a cook, a builder and a former video producer.
He's personable, energetic and dynamic -- a visionary fueled by the strong work ethic inherited from his dad.
In many ways, he is very much his father's son. But at 49, he has created a civic identity all his own.
(P.S. George Stephanopoulos is his first cousin. How's that for a conversation starter?)
"My grandfather came to America in 1907. Back then, if you hit Ellis Island, you were a citizen, naturalized.
"Stenlis was the name they gave my grandfather when he touched down in America. Our real Greek name is Stelianoudakis.
"He worked through New York and the steel mills and the coal mines. In the early 1920s, he went back to Greece, found a wife, got her pregnant and came back to America. My dad was born in 1929.
"He grew up in war-torn Greece. Crete, the island he's from, was occupied by the Germans. My dad used to shine the German officers' boots.
"As boys got older, the Germans shot them because they were old enough to fight back. So my dad went to live with his aunts in Athens.
"My grandmother came to America to be with her husband in the early '30s. When my dad was 17, my grandfather sent him a letter: 'You are a man now. Go to the embassy and come to America.' My dad writes back that they won't let him in. My grandfather says, 'Tell them your dad is a U.S. citizen.' Four hundred people waiting in line, and bam, he's at the front.
"So Spyros gets to Charleston. Within a year, he's drafted into the Korean War. In Minnesota for basic training, he goes to the Greek church and says, 'Any good Greek girls here?' He meets my mother.
"They got married. He did his stint in Korea and was stationed in Germany as a truck driver from '51 to '52.
"My grandparents had this diner at the end of Summers Street. My dad got into that business. He bought the Busy Bee Cafe. Then it was place after place. On the other side of the dinette were some open parking spaces. Montgomery Ward managers wanted to park there, and lo and behold, he's in the parking business.
"We all lived in the house attached to the restaurant. Downtown Charleston was my playground. I had free rein. I would go to the Kearse and watch movies for 50 cents. The bus station had an arcade.
"I grew up playing drums, Greek music, in the church. I started when I was 7 or 8. By the time I was 12, I could play odd and intricate time signatures of Greek music. I didn't know they were supposed to be difficult.
"Music carried me on through marching bands in school. I graduated from Charleston High in 1981.
"On my 18th birthday, my dad opened the Fan Club on Summers Street. I came to work at the parking lot, and my dad says, 'You are 18 today, so you are the bartender.' He gave me the drill, how we cook our burgers and Greek sandwiches. I used to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches for all the girls on the street.
"It was like dog years on Summers Street then. One year was like seven. I grew up very fast to the ways of the street in the two years I worked there.
"I wanted to go to college. I'm glad I didn't go right away, because I got street smart. I learned to read people. That helps me to this day. I went to college and got to be book smart. I majored in communications at Ohio University.
"I started out in studio recording. My dad was thrilled because he was a musician. He played a wicked harmonica.
"In the Fan Club, my brother, Louie, me and my dad were the band. Louie was a fantastic keyboard player in a famous band around Charleston, Ebony and the Greek.