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Lake Wales Family Restaurant Owner Retires After 20 Years

Lake Wales Family Restaurant Owner Retires After 20 Years

by James Coulter

For more than 20 years, Frank Fotios Papadopoulos has served as the owner of Lake Wales Family Restaurant. His eatery served excellent food for breakfast and lunch, and it also served the local community through various endeavors.

He has coached and sponsored many local sports teams, served free Thanksgiving meals to the poor and homeless, provided special parking spaces to veterans, and even helped raise money for a young boy and his dog in need.

Now, after 20 long years, Frank will be stepping down from his position and passing ownership to his son Iraklis. Following his retirement, he and his wife, Popi, will be taking things easy, settling down, and even spending quality time with relatives in his home country of Greece.

However, while he plans to relish his retirement, Frank will miss many of the familiar faces who regularly passed through his eatery. True to their motto, his eatery was a place “where friends are family.”

“Our goal always was to be a family restaurant and make people welcome with their kids and their families,” he said. “We are family here. It was fun to come in and greet the customers and see that they are happy because we have so many regulars with so many stories every day.”

Frank moved to America from Greece at the young age of 14. His family moved to Pennsylvania, where he worked in the restaurant business. He attended college, graduated with his math degree, and went on to open three eateries.

However, he soon realized that he could not raise a family and make a decent living running three separate businesses. So he sold everything, went to live in Greece for a few years, then moved to Florida.

He considered possibly working in sales or as a teacher. However, upon discovering an abandoned diner, he decided to once again attempt opening and running his own restaurant.

The business proved to be most ideal for him. He could work from morning to afternoon, serving breakfast and lunch. Then he would leave at 3 pm to return to his wife and kids to spend quality family time with them.

For the past 20 years, he and his staff have served the community, not only with great food, but also with volunteer work and fundraising. He sponsored many local school sports teams like cheerleading and football, coached soccer, and he even served breakfast to the local high school football.

As an immigrant, Frank appreciates his liberties as an American citizen, especially the freedom protected by the brave men and women of the military. As such, he provides special parking to local veterans.

“We want to thank all those veterans who gave us our safety and our freedom in this country to live,” he said. “We are proud to be Americans and Greeks at the same time.”

His restaurant also serves Thanksgiving meals to local homeless and struggling families. He even helped raise money for a young boy and his dog in need.

Now that he has retired, Frank will be passing on ownership of his restaurant to his son. Iraklis has considered his family’s business a second home ever since he was four years old. He and his sister would often stay in the office watching television when his parents worked weekends. Now, 20 years later, Iraklis is proudly taking the reigns of the family business.

“I just want to continue what they have going,” he said. ” It is astonishing what they were able to accomplish coming over from Greece at 14 years old. They did not have much. They did not know much. What they accomplished here is major, and to be able to take it over and run it the way that they have and continue the tradition, it is a privilege and an honor.”

His father exceeded initial expectations, both in the quality of their food and their relationships with their customers and the local community. Iraklis hopes to continue and further the success of what his father started.

“I appreciate the way things have been,” he said. “Serving the community on here on end, it [all] really grows on you with the people and community here and the people involved…and I want to continue the best that I can.”

Frank has remained married to his wife, Popi, even long before they started their business together. Popi appreciates the time she and her husband spent together, helping to start and grow a business together for them and their family.

“It has been really emotional right now,” she said. “We made a lot of friends, met a lot of people, and it is really emotional that we are leaving this business because this is like home, and we have been here for so long. This is our home. We grew up in here. Our kids grew up in here. And everyone is like family to us. This town has been a family to us, and we will miss everybody.”

For Frank and his family, their business’s success has been maintained through their relationship with their customers. True to their motto, it has been a place “where friends are family.”

Many of their regular customers have become close, personal friends, almost to being an extended family. Frank has known many people who first entered his eatery as children and who have now grown up and had children of their own. Such personable service is what Frank strived for over the past 20 years, and by far, it will be the one thing he will miss now that he has retired.

“We welcome the customer,” he said. “They are your family, every day, you can’t just can’t give up, so every day, it is the same rule, welcome everyone like it is their first time. They have been good to us throughout the good and bad times…It has been overall a good city with all of the people in town…[and] we worked together to make it a better city for everyone else.”

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