Part II

Starting out their married life, Harry and Maria Koukos lived in an apartment in Victory Village and Harry continued to work with his uncle. It was at that time that Maria became pregnant with their first child, Jeannie. Within two years, Olga, Harry’s and Maria’s second child, was born.

It was during that time that a young man from Maria’s village, who lived in Westbrook, offered them a down payment for a house. This wonderful gift of kindness enabled the young couple to buy a home on Douglass Street in Portland. Maria fell in love with her house and her neighborhood. The neighborhood was comprised mostly of well-educated and artistic folks who generously took this young mother with two children under their wing. They not only helped Maria to learn English, but also taught her skills that her mother might have taught her, had she been in America. They recognized how smart Maria was and encouraged her to attend the Jewish night school that had been formed in that community. Unfortunately, with another child on the way, Maria was unable to attend.

Harry and Maria Koukos in front of their family store, Harry’s Market Basket at 460 Ocean St., South Portland. The Koukos family ran the store from 1964 to the early-2000s. South Portland Historical Society photo

In 1962, Harry’s uncle bought Harry’s share of Fessenden Square Market. For two years Harry worked at Broadway Market in South Portland, until in 1964 at the age of 40, he and Maria bought the Market Basket store at 460 Ocean St. and renamed it Harry’s Market Basket. It was then that they moved their growing family into the adjoining apartment.

Maria was very sad to leave her wonderful neighborhood in Portland. They kept their former house for seven years, but all the rental money went into the business and not a new house.

And here begins another chapter of their life story: the South Portland chapter.


Harry’s Market Basket, fondly known as Harry’s, was an integral part of the South Portland Heights neighborhood. The Koukoses made it a warm and welcoming place, where folks were greeted by their first names and made to feel like family. Harry’s sold delicious Italian sandwiches along with chips, soda, wine, beer, and other grocery items typical of a variety/convenience store.

For 22 years, Harry and Maria worked seven days a week at the neighborhood store, with Maria opening the store in the morning and Harry closing it at night. They worked long hours, all the time juggling the care of Jeannie, Olga, Angie, Louie, and George. Eventually, as the children grew older, they all helped out in the store.

Maria and Harry Koukos. South Portland Historical Society photo

Life was not easy, especially in December, 1970, when 9-year-old Louie needed to have open-heart surgery. With six children to care for, including infant Stephanie, this became an extremely challenging and stressful time for Maria. However, the family managed to keep the store running during this difficult time, and little Louie survived.

Life at the Market Basket apartment was described as raucous and crazy, inhabited by several pranksters amongst the eight occupants. The Koukos’ home was like a perpetual open house.

The neighborhood kids loved to come over and hang out. They knew that they would be guaranteed a good time and, as an added bonus, Maria would feed them. In fact, this was a time when all school children would walk home from school for lunch. Some children lived too far away and could not make it home in time for lunch and back to school. These lucky neighborhood children knew that they could go to Harry’s Market Basket and Maria, who was always home, would feed them lunch along with her own six children.

The Koukos family of South Portland. South Portland Historical Society photo

Maria has lamented that her family was not able to celebrate holidays fully while keeping a store open. But Louie remarked that, as a child, he remembers wonderful family holidays and he never felt deprived because of the store. As he said, it was a “way of life.”


Harry and Maria have been active all their lives in the Greek Orthodox Church and all the children grew up in the church. There were many special occasions observed there as well. To this day, the Greek Orthodox Church in Portland has remained an integral part of their lives. Harry now holds the distinction of being one of the oldest members of the church.

After 22 years, in 1986, Harry and Maria retired from the store. Angie and Louie took over from their folks and ran the store for another 17 years, finally selling the business in the early-2000s.

Currently, Harry and Maria reside in a handsome apartment next door to their youngest child, Stephanie, and her family. The focus of their retirement has been family. Whether it is their youngest grandchild, Fischer (named for Maria’s Greek maiden name) popping in to say “hi,” or an entire gathering of the 24-member clan, Papou and YaiYai are present, ready to listen and share their wisdom and love.

One such large gathering is the Fourth of July, when all the family members return to their roots in South Portland to be near the ocean and celebrate with each other. These times sparkle with family humor, exemplified by nonagenarian Harry telling the family, “I guess if I’m going to die, I would have died by now.”

This remarkable family, many of whom still live in South Portland and the greater Portland area, have enriched the community with their talents as businesspeople, as educators, as students, and as active members of the Greek Orthodox Church. One grandchild is now a biomedical engineer, another works on clinical trials at Maine Med, while four others are currently attending college. Maria and Harry not only impacted South Portland by the love and care that they extended to the community at Harry’s Market Basket, but they are still impacting the community through their wonderful productive children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are blessing South Portland, greater Portland and beyond.

Membership Drive 2022: South Portland Historical Society researches and documents local history. If you enjoy reading about South Portland history, please lend your support. A one-year family membership is only $25 and supports our mission of preserving local history. Donations can be made through our Online Museum website at, or if you’d prefer to donate by check, please make it payable to South Portland Historical Society and mail to us at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106. Thank you. If you need to contact the society, we can be reached by email at or by phone at 207-767-7299.

Judy Arnold is a board member of the South Portland Historical Society. Arnold heads up a project at the historical society, interviewing and writing biographies about local people who have played a significant role in South Portland. In her latest project, Arnold met with Harry and Maria Koukos.

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