Posted by Long Beach Post
Demitri “Jimmy” Loizides’ parents, both Greek Cypriot immigrants, moved to Long Beach from Zimbabwe in 1980 with three children and little more than $500.
Jimmy’s father, George, would take two busses to get to his job at a liquor store, while his mother Rodou worked as a cafeteria attendant at Wilson High School. Jimmy started working at McDonald’s at 16.
“I didn’t know what a raise was when I got here,” Jimmy said. “I didn’t understand the concept. My first job at McDonald’s, at orientation they said every 60 days you’ll go through an evaluation, and that will determine your raise. I said ‘what’s a raise?’, and they said ‘you’ll make more money.’ I said ‘oh, ok,’ and I made the max every time.”
Hard work and dedication has been a theme in Jimmy’s life. Seventeen years ago, Jimmy and his father George decided to open their own restaurant and deli in the heart of downtown Long Beach.
George’s Greek Deli opened December 17th, 1990 next to F&M Bank on Pine Ave. Jimmy was the chef, and they had a dishwasher, two servers, and George was the host. The menu was inspired by Jimmy’s mother Rodou’s cooking.
It was daunting, Jimmy says, but lucky for them, they weren’t alone.
“We got our very first SBA loan from International City Bank. They walked us through the process—because, you know, it’s intimidating, to go through a process like that and not know what you’re doing,” Jimmy said. “They were very easy to work with, and very accommodating. They had a ‘can do’ attitude, and they made it work for us.”
“Our first loan agent was Patricia, Pat,” Jimmy remembers. “Pat walked me through it. She held my hand, she helped me do the paperwork.”
Jimmy recalls Pat even walked some paperwork over to the restaurant herself, to get a missing signature.
“You feel like you’re walking into a friends’ house,” Jimmy said of the personal level of service that’s become one of International City Bank’s defining characteristics. “They’re very business-friendly, very easy to work with, very local, accessible, and they have a ‘can do’ attitude. They made our process very simple.”
Much like downtown Long Beach, Jimmy says their business has changed a lot since opening 16 years ago. They’ve moved the original Pine Ave. location to where it is today, and added a full bar.
Ten year ago, George’s Greek Cafe opened a second location in bustling Belmont Shore, and two years later, a third location in nearby Lakewood.
And for each restaurant, Jimmy got an SBA loan from International City Bank.
“I don’t know if we could have done it without them,” he said.
The restaurant, and the Loizides family, has come a long way since 1980, Jimmy says. “I didn’t know if I was going to qualify for [a loan] the first time. I was on the cusp; I didn’t have a lot of collateral, but International City Bank worked with us. They made it very easy.”
Jimmy sees being an immigrant as an advantage, especially in the face of hard work and uncertainty. “I think when you grow up somewhere, you can’t see the forest for the trees, but this really is the greatest country in the world,” he said. “You can make whatever you want of yourself in this country.”
“We came here in 1980 with nothing,” Jimmy said. “Now we’re living the American dream. We own three restaurants here; we live in the greatest country in the world where you can do and be anything. With hard work and dedication, the opportunities are here.”