Lambros Mihalopoulos kept getting requests from customers who wanted to purchase various Greek foods. So the wholesale distributor of Greek foods decided to open a grocery store in downtown East Moline.
“I sell to restaurants from Kansas City, Des Moines, Peoria, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and the Quad-Cities,” said Mihalopoulos, who has been a distributor for 12 years.
Because he buys food items in bulk, he was unable to cater to the requests of individuals who wanted to buy his specialty foods in smaller quantities.
That changed in October when he decided to use the front part of his warehouse at 919 15th Ave., East Moline, for a grocery store featuring Greek and Middle Eastern foods. It is called LCV Grocery.
He said for instance, he usually buys feta cheese in 28-pound tubs. But now he can sell it in 8-pound or 4-pound increments or even a 2-pound wheel. That also is true of gyro meat, which he now can sell in
1-pound amounts. Among other items are sheep and goat milk, and olives.
“And I just imported olive oil from the region where I came from,” said Mihalopoulos, who came to the United States as a child in 1966. “It is the first time it was imported to the United States.”
He said his grocery store carries many types of Greek cheese, including mitzithra, kefalotiri, kefalograviera, haloumi, manouri and vlahotiri; Greek desserts such as baklava, kataifi, kourambiethes and melomacarona; and a selection of cookies and candies, and halva.
There also are ready-to-eat items such as pastitsio, moussaka, spanakopita, tiriopta, Avgolemeno soup, traditional Greek bean soup, stuffed grape leaves, and an assortment of Greek-style canned vegetables.
“Now there are two Mexican grocery stores, a Chinese grocery store and a Greek grocery store downtown along 15th Avenue,” Mihalopoulos said. “The city of East Moline is trying to market it as an ethnic marketplace. It is a good thing for the city. There is no place in the Quad-Cities with this many ethnic groceries.”
“I see people going in an out of each store,” East Moline City Administrator Cole O’Donnell said. “That area has certainly has some struggles. We are seeing fewer of the standard stores downtown. This is much more specialized. There is a transition going on from one thing to another. We want to find some more unique stores to make it a destination spot.”