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Pioneering Houston restaurant owner dies, leaving a food legacy that's 50 years strong

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James Christie of Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant December 2013
Jim Christie, owner of Christie's Seafood & Steaks restaurant, passed away November 29. Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant/Facebook
Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant about 1946 from Life magazine
This photograph from 1946 shows Christie's icon location on Main Street across from St. Luke's hospital. It closed to allow for the Texas Medical Center to expand. Photo by Dmitri Kessel/LIFE/Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant/Facebook
Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant Barbara Bush and George H.W. Bush April 2012
Among Christie's legions of fans are former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant/Facebook
Christie's Seafood & Steaks exterior front night
Christie's still maintains a location on Westheimer west of the Galleria where diners can feast on classic fried shrimp and fresh Gulf oysters.  Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant/Facebook
James Christie of Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant December 2013
Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant about 1946 from Life magazine
Christie's Seafood & Steaks Restaurant Barbara Bush and George H.W. Bush April 2012
Christie's Seafood & Steaks exterior front night

Jim Christie, the owner of long-standing Houston seafood restaurant Christie's, passed away last week at the age of 79. Born James Priovolos, he moved to America from Greece in 1953. After teaching himself English, Christie began working at a series of restaurant jobs.

Fate intervened in 1963 when he walked into Christie's restaurant on Main Street. Even though he didn't work in the restaurant, Christie "just started helping people," daughter Kathy tells the Houston Business Journal. Owner Theodore Christie was so impressed that he offered the immigrant a job. Over the years, Theodore Christie became so fond of both James and his cousin Steve that he legally adopted them and gave them his name. He sold the restaurant to the cousins prior to his death in 1968.

 Founded in Galveston in 1917, Christie's became a Houston institution during its heyday on Main Street near the Texas Medical Center. 

Founded in Galveston in 1917, Christie's became a Houston institution during its heyday on Main Street near the Texas Medical Center. Although the location closed to accommodate the Medical Center's growth, during its time it fed thousands of doctors, nurses, patients and their families.

Christie's daughters tell the Houston Chronicle that he had immense pride that his patrons also included local luminaries like former President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker. Daughters Kathy and Maria continue to manage the restaurant's location on Westheimer west of the Galleria, which is known for classic fried shrimp, fresh Gulf oysters and more. 

Daughter Roula introduced Jim Christie to a new generation of Houstonians via her popular morning show on KRBE. She frequently had him as a guest on the show. He dispensed blunt advice with a Greek accent as "Papa Love."   

Christie is known for his many charitable endeavors. He would help Greek families who immigrated to Houston and contributed to a variety of causes both here and in Greece. 

Christie is survived by his wife of 45 years, Alexandra, five children (George, Kathy, Maria, Roula and Terry), five grandchildren, and his brother Pete Priovolos.  In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass.

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