New London - Sheldon Saul Goldstein, the man behind the successful Goldy's Restaurant on Colman Street, was remembered Sunday - two days after his death at age 80 - as an easygoing guy who loved to sit with customers over coffee and discuss the day's events.
"He was Mr. Personality," said Goldstein's daughter, Anita Miller, who runs the restaurant with two daughters. "He was the front guy."
The man whom everyone called Goldy but whose family knew him as Shelly died Friday after a long illness. Several hundred people are expected to attend his funeral at 1 p.m. today at Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home on Ocean Avenue. Interment will be in Ahavath Chesed Cemetery in Waterford.
Goldstein had been proud of his business career, which included operating the former New London & Mohegan Dairy and MayGold Farms. But it was his nearly two decades at the helm of Goldy's Restaurant that defined him.
"Everyone wanted to see Goldy when he got there," Miller said. "He went from booth to booth in the morning and had coffee with everyone."
At its height, Goldy's employed 30 to 40 people. Goldstein ran the restaurant along with his son, Leonard.
Miller said Goldstein, who never wanted to complete high school though he put three children through college, was a strict boss but fair.
"He was always willing to give a person a chance," she recalled.
Goldstein grew up in Worcester, Mass., but worked summers in Norwich and met his future wife at one of the Saturday night Ocean Beach dances. His father-in-law set him up in business at the New London & Mohegan Dairy, and he quickly became a "New London guy," Miller said, gaining community connections through his work in the Coast Guard Reserve and through memberships in the New London Lodge of Elks, Masons and Congregation Ahavath Chesed.
The gregarious Goldy was in his element last year when the restaurant reopened after a more than decade hiatus. Goldstein served as an ambassador from the golden days of the restaurant, though health problems kept him from being involved in the day-to-day operations. His wife, Louise, also once active in the restaurant, died three years ago.
The 5,000-square-foot, 200-seat "diner with the Midas touch" reopened for the first time since its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, still serving its New England clam chowder, Goldy Burgers and waffle fries.
"He's most proud it's open again," Miller said. "It's Goldy's - that's a big deal to him."