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Beloved Grocery Market Owner Killed In San Francisco Hit-And-Run

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The popular owner of several neighborhood grocery markets in San Francisco was killed in an early Friday morning hit-and-run near the Produce Market in the city's Bayview neighborhood, authorities said.

The San Francisco medical examiner identified the victim as Konstantinos "Gus" Vardakastanis. The 56-year-old was well-known in the neighborhoods as the owner of Gus's Community Market, Haight Street Market and Noriega Produce.

Konstantinos "Gus" Vardakastanis
SF grocery market owner Konstantinos "Gus" Vardakastanis who died in hit-and-run Friday, Sept. 22 (CBS).

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement that paid tribute to Vardakastanis and mourning his death Friday afternoon.

"I am heartbroken at the loss of our beloved Gus Vardakastanis, a dedicated small business owner, immigrant entrepreneur and community leader," the statement read. "He provided healthy and affordable produce to the neighborhoods he served and employed many residents at his three local markets. His welcoming and entrepreneurial spirit will be missed by the many people he touched."

President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors London Breed also released a statement on his death.

"I am truly saddened by the death of Gus Vardakastanis, a beloved member of the Haight-Ashbury community and owner of the Haight Street Market," said Breed. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the employees of the markets he owned throughout the city. He kept his prices affordable and was very committed to hiring locally, including those who needed a second chance. Gus was loved and he will be truly missed."

Michael Janis, an employee at San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, said Vardakastanis' death has left many of the vendors stunned.

"We're all in mourning," Janis said. "He was a very important part of the fabric of the market and of the whole food community in San Francisco."

Vardakastanis and his family has owned and run local markets for over 30 years ever since opening Haight-Ashbury Produce in 1981.

San Francisco police said they were searching for a silver sedan with windshield and front end damage. The suspect vehicle was seen traveling at a high rate of speed and fled the scene.

Investigators said Vardakastanis was fatally struck at 2 a.m. as he crossed Jerrold Street outside of the Produce Market after shopping for his markets. He was declared dead at the scene.

The San Francisco Police Department's Traffic Investigation Unit is investigating the collision. They're looking for a silver sedan with damage to the front end and windshield, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD Tip Line at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD. Callers may remain anonymous.

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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