Jimmy Mastoris spent 50 years of his life working at his family’s restaurants, and by the time he put the menus down for the last time, he was ready to move on. So he sold his shares to Jimmy Manetas and moved to Lewes, Delaware.
He may have moved to a beach community, but he hasn’t been taking it easy. On the day we spoke, he had just gotten home after spending the day teaching at the local elementary school, where he serves as a long-term substitute. After three years, he said, he knows a lot of the children, and the school asks him to go in whenever they know a teacher is going to miss a few days or more.
He was well known to Mastoris customers from his years running the front of the house. When the restaurant made an appearance on some Food Network or Travel Channel show, like Al Roker’s Diner Destinations, Jimmy was the man on camera. He started working in the family business at the age of 13.
But people who only know him from the restaurant might not realize that he was an educator by trade. The Hightstown native taught in the East Windsor School District for 13 years after graduating from college.
“Then as my father (Nick) got older, and the restaurant got to be so big, I had to stop,” he said. ”When I came down here, I thought, let me try it. I just love teaching.”
He took frequent vacations to the Lewes area, and fell in love with the community. He had a summer place there for years, until he sold it and bought another home, where he now lives.
“It’s a good place to retire. I was just fed up with the high taxes and came down with all the other Jerseyans,” he said.
It’s no surprise that a man who got used to 60- or 70-hour workweeks found retirement to be a bit boring. At first, he volunteered to fill the gaps, working at the local soup kitchen or the local Methodist church.
But he had never lost his love of teaching. He put in an application and was pleased when they hired him as a sub.
“The first day I walked into the classroom I was like, ‘Am I dreaming or what?’” he said.
He said he still visits this area at least once a month, and his mother sometimes visits him down in Lewes, where she has even found an Orthodox church she can attend. He keeps in touch with some old customers, and says he hears from people who say they miss seeing him at the restaurant. But he seems well settled in Delaware.
“I have great neighbors here,” he said. “I’m not really into politics, I stay clear of that, but I meet people at church. I don’t have a huge home, but that’s all I need.”
– Joe Emanski