Police are asking San Franciscans to be on the lookout for a damaged silver sedan, after its driver struck and killed the hard-working founder of a trio of San Francisco markets.
According to the San Francisco Police Department, officers were called to the intersection of Jerrold Avenue at Toland Street at 2:17 a.m. this morning. When they arrived, they found a male victim who "had been struck while crossing the roadway," San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Michael Andraychak says.
The victim, who has since been identified by the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office as 57-year-old Konstantinos “Gus” Vardakastanis, is well known as the founder of the three Gus's Community Market locations that dot San Francisco.
Family and friends tell KTVU that Vardakastanis was crossing the street to buy produce for his markets. According to the Chron, Vardakastanis "was known to do business four days a week" at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, located at 2095 Jerrold.
According to Andraychak, the driver of the vehicle that struck Vardakastanis "was traveling at a high rate of speed and fled the scene." It's described as "a silver sedan with windshield and front end damage."
KTVU reports that "There was a shooting a few blocks away at the time, and police said they are looking to see if there are any links between the two events." The Chron reports that:
At 2:12 a.m., the city ShotSpotter system detected gunfire at the intersection of McKinnon and Newhall avenues, which is less than a mile from where Vardakastanis was killed three minutes later.
Officers only recovered shell casings at the scene and did not find any suspects or victims, said Officer Giselle Linnane, a department spokeswoman. Police could not immediately say if the gunfire had any connection to the hit and run.
As reported by KTVU, Vardakastanis "scrimped and saved enough money to begin opening up three organic markets in San Francisco starting in the 1980s." First among them were Haight Street Market and Noriega Produce. In 2015, the Chron reports, he opened the Mission location of Gus’s Community Market with his sons Dimitri and Bobby.
Reactions from local officials were swift, with SF Supe turned Assemblymember David Chiu expressing his condolences via Twitter.
Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Gus Vardakastanis, owner of Gus's Community Market. We will never forget you Gus. https://t.co/LzJwckgnIi— David Chiu (@DavidChiu) September 22, 2017
In a press release sent to media, Board of Supervisors president London Breed said:
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. He was hit and killed by a vehicle this morning in the Bayview. This incident is under investigation by the San Francisco Police Department and I'm sure more info surrounding his death will surface. 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.
In addition to his two sons, Vardakastanis is survived by his wife Georgia and a community stunned at the loss — as a patron of Vardakastanis's at both Haight Street Market and Noriega Produce, I can confirm first-hand that Vardakastanis was well-loved by his customers. As a friend and fellow customer said to me via IM this morning, "In a week and a year of bad news, I gotta say, Gus dying in that way is somehow the worst thing. it's a cruel hit below the belt. I have a thing for markets as community anchors and that's what that dude built."
Andraychak says that "this is an active and ongoing investigation in its early stages," and that anyone with information on the suspect or case is urged to contact the SFPD via their anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the message with "SFPD."