Spiro D. Mellis, a lifelong Modesto resident whose family-run liquor stores were well-known to several generations of Northern San Joaquin Valley residents, died Thursday. He was 89.
Dan Mellis Liquors, which was founded by Mr. Mellis' father, Dan Mellis, after World War II, was a five-store chain that was down to one when Spiro Mellis closed it in 2000.
"It was his life," said Ilene Mellis, his wife of nearly 49 years. "He and his brother Tom really enjoyed having the store together."
In its heyday, the liquor stores, which were in Modesto and Stockton, were known as the best local resource for hard-to-find bottles of wine.
A 2000 Bee story about the closure of the last store, at 730 McHenry Ave., noted that for many years, local wine connoisseurs would say, "If you can't find it at Dan Mellis Liquors, no one has it."
Ilene Mellis said that after Tom Mellis died in 1990, owning and operating the stores became more and more work for Mr. Mellis.
"When he closed the last store, that was very hard," Ilene said. "Spiro had to do it all, and it was too much."
A World War II veteran, Mr. Mellis began working at the store soon after it was founded, learning that his father had bought a liquor store while Mr. Mellis was serving in the Army Air Corps in Alaska.
Mr. Mellis eventually was joined at the store by brothers Tom, who worked in Modesto, and Gus, who ran the chain's Stockton store.
Elaine Mellis, Mr. Mellis' daughter, said her father had a good sense of humor and made friends easily.
"In his line of business, he was able to work well with people," she said. "He lived a good life."
Under Mr. Mellis' ownership, Dan Mellis Liquors in Modesto was a favorite stop of Sundial Lodge developer Grace Covell and Inglis Frozen Foods' John Inglis, and once had a visit from then-California Gov. Earl Warren.
Dan Mellis Liquors also sold cigars, candy and gourmet food.
Mr. Mellis was a charter member of the Del Rio Country Club, a director at Central Valley National Bank and a member of the Elks Lodge and the Modesto Rotary Club.
Mr. Mellis is survived by his wife, who lives in Modesto, and his daughter, who lives in San Francisco.
Funeral services for Mr. Mellis will be Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Modesto, followed by interment at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.
Remembrances in Mr. Mellis' name may be made to Community Hospice, 4368 Spyres Way, Modesto; or to a charity of one's choice.
Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2331.