(Excerpts taken from a 1978 Interview with Ted Deeb)
Long before fast food outlets had become an American way of life, a Watervliet businessman's deep fried fish fillets, served in a hot dog roll, smothered under a "secret recipe sauce" we're bringing life long lines of patrons to his place of business.
Unlike the traditional stereotype of the self-made man, Ted Deeb - owner of the Ted's Fish Fry chain - had to overcome a serious physical handicap rather than a humble origin.
Deeb, son of Lebanese immigrants, was taken out of school at the age of 10 because of a serious heart ailment. In time, this frailty was to become the inspiration for his success.
"I knew that I didn't have enough formal education to get me too far, so I decided I would have to start a business of my own. What I lacked in formal education I had to make up for in practical knowledge."
An amiable Deeb remembered "I was 12 years old and my father ran a dry goods store. I needed some money so I'm asked him if I could sell some notions door to door. I took a little black suitcase filled with knickknacks and was on my way."
As he got older, he began to increase his line of products by selling clothing and jewelry. He continued the door - to - door selling until he was 20, when he swallowed hard and plunged into the competitive world of business.
His first venture was an open - air fruit market that he opened 25 years ago. A $300 loan from his sister underwrote his "biggest gamble."
The market was located at the bridgeway between Troy and Watervliet. It was stark and sparse and consisted of wooden racks and display stands which were wheeled to the front of the store daily. The display would be changed several times each day to give the customer the impression that fresh produce was constantly being delivered.
The fruit market provided Deeb with his first source of investment capital as he waited and searched for that one big opportunity. It came two years later when Otto Galonka, who owned Otto's restaurant in Latham (Now Sneaky Pete's), wanted to sell him a building for $75 for his fruit stand.
"For that price how could I pass it up? My cousin, Cary Ziter and I went in on it together and converted it into a snack bar."
Deeb, a Troy native had the building moved into Watervliet in the mid - 1940's and placed it behind his fruit stand. A few years later the fruit stand was eliminated and the building became Deeb's first fish fry stand christened "Pots and Lots.". We had a catch slogan "Try on for pots and come back for lots."
In time, he bought Ziter's share of "Pots and Lots" and moved to 447 Third Ave., Watervliet, the present location. Here he opened up his first "Ted's."
"It just came to me. I wanted to make money. The idea for the fish fry stand came along and I capitalized on it. That's how I got my start."
The fish fry stand was an idea that fascinated him, an idea he was convinced would succeed. He admits, however, that he knew nothing about it when he first started.
"At the time I didn't know if fish were fried in oil or water. I went into the business on sheer nerve and it took me a long time to get started."
A smiling Deeb remembered his first stand was a log cabin building with push - up windows. He has made yearly changes and now owns a Tennessee marble building with huge sliding windows. Instead of the two employees he started with, Deeb now has close to 80 people on his payroll.
Deeb is not only well known for his fish fries but also for his unique chili sauce, meat sauce and onion rings. Deeb remembers how he got the idea for his onion rings.
"I was going south about 10 years ago when I stopped at a little snack bar for some fried chicken. I was very impressed with the flavor and asked to speak to the cook. I took the recipe home with me and after considerable experimentation; I used the chicken fry batter for my onion rings. It proved to be 'scrumptious' and now they are just as popular as my fish fries."
Deeb's special meat sauce is derived from an old Greek family recipe. He feels this is what put him in the hot dog business. He claims that after years of experience and knowledge he has made his own sauce well known. "I've always been curious and inquisitive about food and because of this my business is a success."
Deeb has come a long way since the days of his single fruit stand. He now has stores in Troy, North Troy, Sycaway and Wynantskill.
When asked what he looks for when choosing a location Deeb replied, "I look for a lot of transit trade and a lot of home and schools. It's something you visualize and say to yourself, I think that would make an ideal location. Then you study the area."
Deeb claims that he always thought he would make it in the business world. "I knew I had the know - how. I speculated a lot on real estate. I was always successful, whether it was my business or property that I bought and re - sold."
According to Deeb, to be a success "one must make him self acceptable to the public, be honest, courteous and an all around nice guy."