Mike Smith, longtime owner of a Parisian cafe, dies at 78

Mike Smith, the longtime steward of Fort Worth landmark Paris Coffee Shop, has died.

He was 78 years old.

Smith worked at the Greek-inspired restaurant his father acquired in 1926 for more than 55 years, including 50 years as owner and operator before selling in 2021.

His passing marks the end of an era not in the Near Southside, but in all of Fort Worth.

“For over 55 years, Mike has been an integral part of our community, serving this neighborhood long before the name ‘Near Southside’ was even whispered,” Near Southside Inc. officials wrote in a Facebook post. “Greeting customers at the door, watching families celebrate special occasions, and welcoming new and old friends around the table were hallmarks of Mike’s tenure as owner-operator of Paris Coffee Shop.”

We don’t keep good food – we sell it was a mantra seen in advertisements throughout the 1930s.

Smith’s father, Gregory Smith came to America as a 13-year-old Greek immigrant. His name was Grigonos Asikis.

“He changed his name to Smith, so he could get a job,” Smith told this writer years later.

Then 26, Gregory Smith traveled to Fort Worth from Rikers Island, the strip of land on the East River between Queens and the Bronx in New York. Gregory Smith acquired the restaurant from Vic Paris in 1926 and ran it for 40 years at the original location, 614 W. Magnolia.

Mike Smith was a graduate student at the University of North Texas in the mid-1960s when his father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Smith left school to run the restaurant.

He took it over entirely after his father’s death in 1971. Smith moved the restaurant to its present site at the corner of Magnolia and Hemphill Street in the mid-1970s. Smith felt by the time of his retirement that he had done nearly 500,000 of the acclaimed Parisian pies.

Smith sold the restaurant to a group led by Lou Lambert. The restaurant only recently reopened after undergoing renovations and upgrading. Lambert said when he took over the restaurant that his group planned to invest to respect what Paris Coffee Shop was and “what it needs to be today to reflect the market and demographics of the neighborhood”.

At the time of the sale, Smith said “55 years is enough”.

When Lambert reopened the doors in May to the renovated restaurant, adorned with new walls, floors, bathrooms, menus and a new kitchen, Smith was the first guest to return.

“On behalf of the entire community, we send our condolences to the Smith family and our memories of Mike,” Near Southside Inc.