Family businesses are a lot like families. You look at everyone else’s, and they make it look so easy.
But also like families, family businesses require the frequent resolution of sensitive feelings, miscommunication, tempers and stress. The family owned businesses we feature in this edition of CityView have managed to stick it out and have been rewarded with a special kind of pride and success.
Nicko Poulos, second-generation owner of another family business, will tell you it’s worth it. But 30 years ago, when he was taking over ownership of Superior Bakery in Hope Mills Plaza from his old school, Greek-immigrant father John Poulos, he wasn’t so certain.
“He had two ways,” Nicko said. “His way and his way.”
John Poulos came to this country from a tiny village in central Greece in the prefecture of Karpenissi. It was only through hard work and their outgoing personalities that he and his wife Kay carved out a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their three children. In the early years, he would load his baked goods into first a station wagon and in later years a cargo van and deliver them to hotels and restaurants all over town.
“And not just bakery stuff,” Nicko said. “He would deliver 2-liter bottles of soda and other grocery items if people needed them. He used to pay me $5 a day to help him.”
John Poulos died July 19, leaving behind an unforgettable legacy of kindness, generosity and community service to go along with his well-known work ethic. He was 89.
“He was a tireless worker for every charitable cause you could name and sold countless raffle tickets and spaghetti dinner tickets for several decades,” said Father Alex Papagikos of Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, where the Pouloses have been longtime members. “He never said no when his church needed his help. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew and respected him.”
Both Kay and John were awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2007. John was a tireless worker for the Cape Fear Kiwanis Club, most notably at the organization’s annual pancake breakfast, so much so that he came to be known as the Pancake King. He showed up for the event in 2014, despite recovering from quadruple bypass surgery. He could also be found helping to serve up copious amounts of pasta and sauce at the church’s annual spaghetti and Greek pastry sale, which raised money for a variety of charitable causes.
He also leaves behind perhaps the most important of legacies: the respect of his children.
“My dad was one of a kind,” elder son Stephen Poulos said. “He did things the right way. He walked the walk.”
Nicko remembers that his father, even in his later years, would stop by to pitch in at the bakery.
“He would pick up a 50-pound bag of flour and throw it over his shoulder like it was nothing,” Nicko said.
And all these years later, Nicko presides over a family business that has endured.
“The thing I figured out later is that we both had so much passion for the business and for each other,” Nicko said. “You don’t fight with someone you don’t love. And it turns out that I’m just like him.”
Contact Kim Hasty at email@example.com or at 910-4236500, ext. 317.