Hellas Imports: Greek Food Specialties

When Pheofanis "Frankie" Rigalos opened a pizza stand in Hollywood 30 years ago, he immediately ran into a problem. He simply couldn't find the high-quality ingredients he needed. His son, Bobby, picks up the story: "He started going to New York, but even there he couldn't get everything he needed at the markets. So he went to factories and warehouses. He'd go around at church and tell everyone he was ordering, say, a big wheel of cheese, and people would go in on it." The Greek native naturally let this lead him into the business of importing, distributing, and selling directly to customers the finest Greek food (and statues, CDs, sundries) from a 15,000-square-foot warehouse. Bobby, who was born in the U.S., says that while the store sells all the best in the world of olives, feta, and pita, the most important aspect is "our knowledge of the products. Everything is imported from Greece. My father goes three times a year to shop. And with the Greek farmers, they're more honest, they'll tell him if they're looking at a good season or a bad one. We rotate our stock frequently." His mother Georgia keeps the books while sister Dina oversees administration. Cousin Pano (Peter in English) also pitches in. Together they provide real Greek food to everyone from the organizers of the St. Andrews festival in Kendall each November to places in the Caribbean, South America, and all over Florida. "It's a big operation for a mom-and-pop," Bobby notes. "But we still know all the regular customers on a personal basis." Saturday is the best time to go because there is almost always a reason to celebrate something, and the place turns into one big fat Greek party, with music and dancing, people gathering to shop and eat everything from what Bobby calls "Americanized stuff like baklava" to "hard-core cookies and chocolates you can only find in Greece." He tries to summarize the inventory, but ends up speaking Greek. "We have ... oh, it's a great saying, but in English, well, the best way I can say it is, 'We have everything including the bird's milk.'"


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