SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The family of a grocer who was struck and killed in San Francisco has honored his memory by opening a new store in a neighborhood that really needs it.
In September 2017, grocer Gus Vardalastamos was walking in a crosswalk in the Bayview, when a speeding driver hit him.
Now, his legacy will live on, thanks to his two sons.
“It’s an extension of our family, and nothing represents us as a family as a whole more than our business,” said Bobby Vardakastanis.
For Bobby and his brother Dimitri Vardakastanis, Wednesday was opening day for the family’s fourth grocery store, Gus’s Community Market in Mission Bay.
Twenty years ago, Mission Bay was mostly acres of warehouses and vacant lots. Then planners got the greenlight for a $4 billion development deal.
So much has changed since then. Now, Mission Bay feels like a new city unto itself, perched on the edge of the bay. The sidewalks are getting crowded.
Judging by the crowds that poured through the doors of Gus’s Market on opening day, Mission Bay’s new residents were starving for a local grocer.
While the day brought a flood of ecstatic customers, it was bittersweet. This is the the first time the family has opened a store without its namesake, who was killed in that still-unsolved fatal hit-and-run.
Gus’s first location in the Haight-Ashbury District opened back in 1981. It’s now considered by many to be the street’s center of gravity.
Gus is still considered a family member by just about anybody who knew him.
“He was a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, it was a huge tragedy to lose him,” said Robert Morris.
“We’ve been to the one in the Mission, they have a good reputation for buying from local farms, said shopper Michael Rogers.
“Incredible man,” said Al Cellini. “His goal was to always make every customer happy.”
Gus’s legacy has a new home in a new San Francisco community, carried on by two sons raised by a man people across San Francisco still call by his first name.
“Me being Italian-American, I grew up in my grandfather’s grocery store,” said Cellini. “You have to give it to these boys, they want to continue that tradition in honor of a wonderful man — Gus.”
“I wanna thank everyone out there,” said Dimitri. “We’re working hard to keep our customers happy and the neighborhood satisfied, so it’s good to hear.”