My Montrose: Statiras Panagiotis, aka “Botis”
Panagiotis is the longtime manager of the Montrose Shell service station, on the corner of Montrose and Richmond.
How did you start working at the Montrose Shell?
I started here in 1983. I first came to Houston to go to college [at UH’s Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management], and while I was there one of my friends bought this station. He needed people he could count on and trust, so he hired me.
Your name is Statiras, but everyone calls you Botis—why?
It’s a nickname I’ve had since I was an infant. My brother gave it to me.
Where did you grow up?
The island of Rhodes. Then I moved here, went to college, graduated, worked in the restaurant business for awhile. I was the manager at two restaurants; I worked at the old Ritz Carlton for awhile.
How did the Montrose Shell become such a popular spot for Greeks in Houston?
I have a lot of friends, and they come gather here. There are people who come just to tell jokes, then leave. It’s a place where you hear about people’s lives. It’s like I’m the neighborhood hairdresser. Today a customer told me about his wedding anniversary. It’s interesting to be here—I don’t think it would work in another location.
Because Montrose has a different type of culture. It’s more international; the people are more laid back. And remember, Montrose back in 1983 was very different culture. Back then I was not as open-minded as I am now. In Greece, if you’re a man, you’re a man, and if you’re a girl, you’re a girl. You have to open up your mind.
So working here has broadened your perspective?
Oh yeah, for sure. Because I also lived here until 1999.
Your station offers one full service station, which is pretty rare these days. Why?
It’s good for the elderly, or if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to get your hands dirty. We have customers who drive from Highland Village all the way over here to get gas, because it’s full service.
You also have a service center. Do you a lot of longtime customers?
Oh yes. I have customers who have been bringing their cars here since 1983. They come because they know me—when I go on vacation, the place gets quiet. This summer I was on vacation for five weeks, and our business dropped significantly. It’s sort of like your doctor—you like to go to somebody you trust.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
The freedom to move around. I like to interact with people, I like the freedom of movement. That’s the best part—it isn’t a corporate structure. I tried that, and I didn’t like it at all.
Montrose Shell. 920 Richmond Ave. 713-528-2310