Alex Petkus was an expert in social networking. No he wasn’t a whiz at Facebook and Twitter. His brand of networking was the old fashioned kind; pressing flesh in a firm handshake, warm greetings, learning and remembering first names. Alex was the most genuinely friendly and personable restauranteur in the Alpharetta area. He passed away Monday at the age of 49.
I first met Alex about five years ago. He’d opened a small chicken wing joint with a cool Sopranos theme called Bada Bing Wings. It was a quiet place close to my home that my kids, toddlers at the time, enjoyed. Like most of his customers it didn’t take long before we got to know “Mr. Alex” on a first name basis. We even met his wife Deb and enjoyed her delicious contributions to the restaurant’s menu.
My kids adored Mr. Alex. I recall my daughter’s birthday one year when we allowed her to pick any restaurant in town for dinner. Without hesitating she choose Mr. Alex’s place. Later when Alex was ill and away from his restaurant my daughter colored him a get well card. I’m regretting having to tell her of his passing.
Alex later became a partner in Scratch Fresh, a burger concept in Milton near Walmart. His friendly demeanor enveloped the place. Within the employees at Scratch Alex created a culture of appreciation and hospitality unlike any I’ve seen in a local restaurant. Today the restaurant has a tremendously loyal following because of it.
My family continued to see Alex over the years. As my kids grew Alex would joke about the time he bought a special vacuum cleaner at Bada Bing to clean up after my messy son David. Today he orders a much neater grilled cheese sandwich at Scratch. Alex always remembered to make it “the David way” with inverted hamburger buns. It was these small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, remembered and repeated hundreds of times over, that won him repeat business.
I saw Alex last week for dinner. He’d just returned from the east coast of Florida where he was scouting a future location for Scratch Fresh. The plan was for he and his wife to move there within the year. I was disappointed that we’d be losing this friend to relocation in the coming months but was excited for his opportunity. Unfortunately we lost him much sooner.