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Beloved market family honored
George Pallios, one of three brothers who built a small grocery empire serving Ceres for 61 years, was honored Friday with the Ceres Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Chamber also gave special recognition to the entire Pallios family for its significant contributions to the community on a personal level and when their Richland Market was operational. The store, which closed last year after 61 years of serving Ceres, was opened in 1951 by brothers Gus Pallios and John Pallios 1951. George Pallios joined the team in 1960 after finishing his education at Modesto Junior College and Fresno State and serving in the Army from 1953-55. In those days the store was at the southwest corner of Richland and Evans. Shortly after George came aboard, the store was moved to its second location in the building that houses Richland Ace Hardware in the Richland Shopping Center.

Emcee and city Councilman Eric Ingwerson said the Pallios family has "left a huge legacy in our community." He went on to share personal childhood experiences visiting Richland Market.

"I remember Mom loading all five of us kids into a Chevy station wagon and going weekly grocery shopping," said Ingwerson. "And you didn't need to bring money. Why? Because you charged it. You put it on your grocery bill. And when George would see Mom pull up with all five of us kids, he'd have the butcher, Ted Rosander, get out about five raw hotdogs and said, 'Feed those Ingwerson children, if not they'll be running wild through the store.' Every time we'd go back I'd head straight back to the butcher department... it wasn't cooked, we didn't care. We loved it."

The Richland chain later spread to Modesto, Turlock and Oakdale. The stores were sold off one by one until the last, the Ceres store, fell victim to lower-priced warehouse volume grocery chains. The store closure saddened many long-time customers.

"They chose to support this community continuously with donations, with hard work, employing the citizens of Ceres, providing jobs for our community," said Ingwerson of the Pallios family. "They have left their mark in the city of Ceres and continue to do so with the rest of the family."

Ingwerson reminded the crowd that the market gave the Ceres Street Faire free advertising on grocery bags since its inception in 1988. He held up one of the bags, saying "This one is getting framed."

A resident of California since 1935, George Pallios graduated from Ceres High School in 1949 who went on to study at Modesto Junior College and Fresno State before entering the Army from 1953-55. He has been a longtime member of the Ceres Lions Club and served as a church council for over 35 years. Pallios served as president of the Stanislaus Grocers Association, the Northern California Grocers Association and served on the Great Valley Bank board of directors.

Neighbor Becki Barton-Nicholes said of George and Sophie Pallios: "We've had the pleasure of having them as role models and mentors to us and our son Colby. George always demonstrates what it is to be a great husband, father, brother and businessman. Although it has been said that his walk and look are very intimidating, he is really a gentle giant once you get to know him. George and the Pallios family have been very generous to us and our community over the years, not only in their monetary giving but in their desires, direction and commitment to making Ceres a great place to live and raise a family. Behind every family is a mentor and leader and a visionary and George Pallios is such a man."

"I've been here a long time and Ceres is a wonderful place and I've got a wonderful family," said Pallios, caught by surprise. "I certainly want to thank you all because I didn't think I would make it. This is really surprising."

The Chamber also bestowed a number of other awards on Friday.

Lance Goblirsh received the Chamber's Distinguished Service Award as did Nancy Pope.

Goblirsch was singled out for his passion and drive to manage the Ceres Youth Baseball organization, which attracts about 1,000 youth players per year. Goblirsch coached his son and daughter for six years and then took on presidency of the CYB program for six years, putting in about a thousand hours a year of volunteer time. He also was instrumental in working with the city to remodel the George Costa Baseball Complex at Smyrna Park.

"I've always done it for the kids," said Goblirsch.

In honoring Nancy Pope, it was noted that she and husband Cary Pope purchased the Clinton Whitmore Mansion in 2005 and credited for having Community Hospice help restore it for the Designer Showcase. She helps collect and distribute food for the needy through the Children's Crisis Center and Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children. Pope also offers catering and hospitality training and mentors dozens of youngsters through the Project Yes program. For six years Pope has hosted a Salvation Army dinner fundraiser that has raised over $50,000 for that organization. Involved in the Ceres Garden Club, Pope has assisted third-grade teacher Jill-Marie Purdy with the student garden at Walter White Elementary School.

Bryan and Becki Nicholes shared in the "Volunteer of the Year Award." The husband-wife team has been instrumental in the Love Ceres program. Brian is the Deputy Fire Chief of Ceres and Becki runs a local day-care. Both are involved in youth ministries and are youth camp counselors. Becki is also active in the Soroptimist International of Ceres.

"Speaking for both of us, this has been a journey throughout our life," said Bryan Nicholes. "We don't plan on quitting. We plan on continuing to serve, not only our community but God and our church."

Del Ambris and Cost Less Foods received accolades with the "Business of the Year Award." Chamber of Commerce President Dustin Pack said the business, which located on Hatch Road nine years ago, continues to be community supportive. Employing 119 persons, the market has weathered competition and Ambris is a "leader" in community involvement. The store helps with the CUSD Foundation, partners with five schools, consistently hires Project Yes students, works with Howard Training Center and sponsors Ceres youth teams, and participates in Ceres Relay for Life.

"We go above and beyond - it's our pleasure to do it," said Ambris.

The event also included the installation of the Chamber of Commerce's new board of directors. Dustin Pack is serving as president once again this year. Rene Ledbetter is vice president and Robert Yockey is treasurer. Directors are Ruben Alvarez, Reg Evans, Kris Klair, Krista Knight, Tracie Maciel, Shane Parson, Bertie Plante, Cary Pope, Jay Simmonds and Harinder Toor. Beth Hunt is the Chamber's Ambassador.

Pack cited the Chamber's accomplishments in the past year. He said the Chamber was teetering "on the brink" but has rallied to boost Chamber membership from 70 to 125. He noted the enactment of a student summer intern program, the implementation of a new logo and website, the distribution of $250 scholarships to seniors at both Ceres and Central Valley High Schools and the hosting of coffee hours on the third Friday morning with guest speakers. Pack also noted that the Chamber board was increased in size from nine to 14 members and the hiring of a part-time ambassador and city liaisons. He also mentioned that the Chamber recently initiated a first-ever Hatch Road town hall meeting for the business meeting to tackle problems there.

Pack said in the Chamber's quest to improve the quality of life for Ceres businesses and residents is "not necessarily about finding the money or the resources, it is changing the attitude of everyone into really believing that Ceres is a great place to do business, a great place to educate your children, and a great place to live. We have to get passed the mindset of saying we are stuck between Modesto and Turlock. And think about what a strategic place to be and that we must take advantage of being a part of Stanislaus County. One of the biggest challenges that I see is as I talk to many people in the community and business owners is Ceres has kind of had this depressed mentality. We have to begin to change that."

The $35 per plate affair included a stand-up comedy routine by Anthony Kay and a silent auction. A buffet was served by Howard Training Center.