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'Al' Harris wanted his restaurants to be iconic

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, at 11:03 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, at 6:19 a.m.

While he owned and managed The Beacon and Don's restaurants, it wasn't unusual for Albert Lyon "Al" Harris to be seen working in the kitchen or greeting customers by name as they walked through the door.

He wanted the Wichita restaurants to be iconic.

"He wanted the food to be like what you would have at home but better and with homemade specialties like chicken and noodles and cinnamon rolls," said his wife, Dixie Harris. "He wanted it to offer all the things your mother would have made that were really fabulous. He was hands on — always tasting and checking."

Mr. Harris died Monday after a short illness. He was 67.

Services will be at 2 p.m. today at Hebrew Congregation of Wichita, 1850 N. Woodlawn.

Mr. Harris was born April 19, 1942, in Pittsburgh, Pa. In 1964, he earned a degree in hotel management from Penn State University. As an employee of Sky Chefs, Mr. Harris moved to Wichita in 1974, where he managed food services at Dobb's House Restaurant at Mid-Continent Airport.

In 1979, he bought Don's Restaurant at 1546 S. Broadway and then, in 1987, he bought the Riser Restaurant at 909 E. Douglas, next door to The Wichita Eagle. He gave the restaurant a new name, expanded the menu and began displaying his hobby — collectible art prints, etchings and lithographs.

When he retired five years ago, Mr. Harris sold the restaurants.

He is survived by his wife, Dixie; two sons, Neil of Chicago, and David of Portland, Ore.; brother Martin Harris of Houston; sister Henrietta Katzen of Orlando, Fla.; and three grandchildren. He was previously married to Elaine R. Harris of Wichita.

Memorials can be made to the Hebrew Congregation of Wichita, 1850 N. Woodlawn, Wichita, KS 67208; or to the Kansas Humane Society, 3313 N. Hillside, Wichita, KS 67219.

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