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Congers Man Hits 30-Year Milestone At Suffern Restaurant

John George, owner of Priya Indian Cuisine, sits at a table inside his restaurant in Suffern. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce
Priya Indian Cuisine on Lafayette Avenue in Suffern. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce

SUFFERN, N.Y. - A couple weeks ago, Marcello’s in Suffern celebrated its 30th anniversary with a concert at Lafayette Theatre.

Across the street, John George celebrated his own 30th anniversary earlier this week.

George stood behind the bar inside Priya Indian Cuisine Tuesday afternoon, the restaurant that he and his business partner--also his wife’s cousin--Samuel Panacherry opened back on Oct. 25, 1986.

Priya offers up Northern Indian cuisine, which isn’t as spicy as the food in Southern India where George and his wife are from, the state of Kerala.

“It’s very spicy. I don’t think anyone wants that,” he joked.

For 30 years people have come to Priya Indian Cuisine to indulge in favorites like the Chicken Masala, Lamb Korma, and Chicken Vinadaloo.

Back when it first opened, the building in Suffern where the restaurant is located was brand new, and owning a restaurant wasn’t a thought in George’s mind until a chance encounter.

He recalls dining in a restaurant in Nyack when he fell into conversation with four employees working there who were also Indian. During that conversation the four employees convinced George to open an Indian restaurant that they would run for him.

At the time in 1985 George had recently moved to Congers from new Rochelle. He had immigrated from India 11 years prior and was still working as a mechanic in Mount Vernon when Priya Indian Cuisine opened it’s doors in 1986.

Over the years business has slowed and in 2012 George lost his partner in Panacherry, who passed away.

George will turn 70 in April and he has an eye toward retirement. The last time he visited India was 2010 with the restaurant keeping him from making the trip with his wife. His wife, who retired as a registered nurse six years ago, travels to India each year.

“I’ve been working since 1964,” George said. He rhetorically asked how many years that is before calculating it in his head; it’s 52. “That’s enough,” he said.

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