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Foto’s George Fotopoulos retiring after 36 years

By: By Jill Loya Lincoln News Messenger Correspondent
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Know and Go:

A get-together of Foto’s customers and George Fotopoulos will be held from noon until 2 p.m. Saturday. Cookies will be provided.

 

Walking into Foto’s Market on 5th Street in downtown Lincoln  is like entering a bygone era, where customer service and friendliness were the hallmark of every small business.

Owner George Fotopoulos of Foto’s Market still ensures that every customer is welcomed.

Fotopoulos greets customers by name and asks about their family and what is going on in their lives. He cares about his customers.

After 36 years of working more than nine hours a day, beginning at 4 a.m., six to seven days a week, Fotopoulos is retiring.

“It’s time to retire and my wife retires from the state of California this year. We plan to remodel our home and spend time traveling to Greece,” said Fotopoulos when The News Messenger asked why he was selling his downtown Lincoln store. It will remain a grocery store.

Foto’s is a Lincoln landmark; Fotopoulos bought Layla’s Market on Jan. 10, 1977 and opened Foto’s Market the next month.

“George is a pretty smart guy when it comes to business,” said Foto’s meat-cutter Peter Sorenson, who has worked with Fotopoulos for more than  32 years. “It was always fun to have discussions with him. Not having him around will be the most difficult thing. I will miss him.”

Sorenson often engaged in friendly arguments with Fotopoulos.

“I will miss arguing with him a bit, although it was always over in less than 10 minutes,” Sorenson said.

“Over the years, George has become a lot calmer and more relaxed overall. He enjoys spending time with the customers,” Sorenson said.

  Every morning for the past six years, a group of men and their mascot, Mabel, gather outside at the Foto’s Market bench for coffee and conversation.

“We have solved all the problems of the world during our morning meetings. Many in the group are lifelong Lincoln residents as well as military veterans, along with two Del Webb residents,” said Mick McCartney, a former Lincoln mayor and current Planning Commissioner member.

McCartney and his group, John Marchitiello, Robert Asazawa, Ray Dedini, Del Costa, Tony Avila and Jerry Bermson; all agreed, “We hate to see George leave but he deserves to retire and enjoy life.”

Fotopoulos’ journey to owning a business began in his native Greece. He earned a degree in mathematics with a minor in physics from Athens University in 1973 and then moved to the United States. He attended San Francisco State University to learn English and get a better grasp on the American culture.

Fotopoulos had a difficult time transitioning from the Greek way of life to the American culture, he said, and returned to Greece for six months to help care for his grandmother.

Returning to the United States, Fotopoulos settled in Sacramento and attended Sacramento State University where he received another math degree.

His grandfather and then his father were grocery store owners, beginning in the early 1950s, in Greece.

“I am very thankful for the outpouring of public support that the Lincoln community has shown me and my business over the past 36 years,”  Fotopoulos said. “I want to let everyone know important this support has meant to me and I am truly grateful.”