George Loizides, popular owner of George’s Greek Cafe and the “smiling greeter of Pine Avenue,” died of cancer Tuesday, Oct. 15, at his Long Beach home. He was 83.
Loizides, diagnosed with lung cancer last year, died surrounded by his family, according to Jessie Smith, director of operations for George’s Greek Cafe restaurants.
Loizides played “a huge part in revitalizing Pine Avenue, welcoming people with his smile and hugs,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “He was one of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve known. Our hearts go out to his family, who have done so much for our community.”
John Morris, a longtime Long Beach restaurateur, first met Loizides in 1999, when George’s Greek Cafe opened on Pine Avenue, near Third Street. Morris had opened a restaurant of his own on Pine the year before, and he became a close friend of the Loizides family.
“I’m really going to miss his smiling face and getting hugs and kisses from him,” said Morris, now the manager at the Boathouse on the Bay, on Long Beach’s east side. “I spent many mornings with George just drinking tea and having great talks with him on his patio. He was a remarkable guy.”
Loizides was born Feb. 22, 1936, in the small village of Kathikas, on the island of Cyprus. He moved to Africa, following a brother who had opened a chain of stores selling household products.
When civil unrest broke out in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Loizides, his wife and three children — Jimmy, Nicky and Rip — immigrated to the United States. They finally settled in Long Beach in the 1980s. In addition to their flagship in downtown Long Beach, now at 135 Pine Ave., the Loizides family also has restaurants in Belmont Shore and Lakewood.
Services are pending.