The owner of the iconic Park Slope events venue Grand Prospect Hall, Michael Halkias, died from COVID-19 on Wednesday. He was 82.
Halkias’ death sent shockwaves throughout Brooklyn, where community leaders and friends remember him as a passionate, generous figure.
“He was a Brooklyn character for sure in the best sort of way,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “He was larger than life.”
Halkias and his wife Alice bought Grand Prospect Hall in 1984 and turned the extravagant Prospect Avenue building into an opulent catering hall. The space became a New York icon because of its long-running, popular commercials, where Alice Halkias declares in a Greek accent, “We make your dreams come true!”
Grand Prospect Hall, a Victorian banquet hall built in 1892, attracted big names such as dancer Fred Astaire and mafioso Al Capone during its heyday in the early 20th century — and boasted some of the borough’s oldest treasures, such as Brooklyn’s first reported elevator, which functions to this day. But by the 1980s, the landmarked building had fallen into disrepair: its walls had been painted black, molding had been stripped off the walls, and the chandeliers were gone, Halkias told Brooklyn Paper in 2004.
The couple spent 20 years restoring the sprawling, 12-room banquet hall to its former grandeur, Halkias said. Now, the venue has been featured in movies including Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Cotton Club,” and continues to host countless weddings, music festivals, and events.
They also maintained deep roots within the community, hosting dozens of community events each year, according to local business leaders.
“He was always a pleasure to work with. He made our dreams come true,” said Mark Caserta, the head of the Park Slope Business Improvement District, which has hosted its annual food event “Taste of Fifth” at the venue for seven years.
Peers, the former community board chair in Sunset Park, said the the couple wouldn’t charge the community group for hosting meetings or public hearings at the space.
“He would always open the doors to Grand Prospect Hall to us for whatever we needed. He never charged us for those types of events,” he said, noting also that Alice and Michael made a great team. “She kept him very balanced. He’d want to give everything away and she would say, ‘Wait a minute!'”
Brooklynites will remember Halkias for his sense of humor and generosity, Peers added.
“He had a heart of gold,” he said.