Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

History of the Petit Paris Restaurant

Mr. & Mrs. Gerber

Mr. & Mrs. Gerber

Mr. & Mrs. Leon Gerber came to this country from Vosges, France. Leon had been a chef at the Ritz Hotel.

Petit Paris Pastry Shoppe

Petit Paris Pastry Shoppe

In 1929, they opened a French pastry shop at 247 Lark Street, which operated until 1934. After this they leased a small garage at 1060 Madison Avenue, which they converted into a pastry shop; they shop was closed summers as they went to work at various Lake George hotels.

Madison Tavern

Somewhere around this time the Madison Tavern opened next door. The Gerbers became U.S. citizens. In 1939 they bought out the Tavern. Their friends warned it was too big to manage; instead, they wound up expanding the place. The Petit Paris Room opened in 1945, and was redecorated in 1948.

Petit Paris Room at the Madison Tavern

Petit Paris Room at the Madison Tavern

Mrs. Gerber ran the business, Mr. Gerber ran the kitchen, but Mrs. Gerber ran the business. When she died in 1962, Leon started to look for a buyer.

Petit Paris Mother's Day

Petit Paris Mother’s Day

Mike Flanigan

Mike Flanagan

He found one in native Albanian Michael Flanagan, a bassist/guitarist whose day job was sales executive for NCR, an early computer company. The Petit Paris had been Flanagan’s first paying musical job after WWII. In July of 1963, Flanagan bought the restaurant for about $200k, and spent months with Gerber, learning the recipes, keeping head chef Robert Leveau. He became host, chef, and wine steward for the venue.

Petit Paris Dining Room

Petit Paris Dining Room

Under Flanagan’s direction, the Petit Paris became a little less formal, while maintaining its sophisticated menu. It became a popular “first date” spot for Pine Hills highschoolers and collegiates, and its live musical acts shifted from classical pianists to jazz trios and big bands.

Petit Paris

Petit Paris

In 1972, Flanagan was approached by a representative of Central Markets (later renamed Price Chopper), who had big plans for the property. He sold the establishment, continuing his musical career as a performer and piano technician. The building was demolished in 1972.

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