Jordan Voudouris would close his Paeroa pizza and pasta shop every Monday so he could drive to Auckland to visit his children.
But yesterday, his family were grieving after he was found dead on a driveway behind the shop.
The body of the 57-year-old, who owned Mykonos Pizza and Pasta Paeroa, was yesterday afternoon removed from the scene on Hall St and taken to Auckland for a post-mortem examination which police are hoping will provide more clues to how he died.
His mystery death has shocked the small Hauraki Plains community.
Yesterday, several of Mr Voudouris' employees gathered outside his Belmont Rd business, and other people left bouquets of flowers and messages.
The street where his body was found was cordoned off as a forensics team from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research examined the scene.
A nearby business, Granville Antiques, placed a message on a blackboard outside the store, saying: "We all knew him, much loved RIP."
One of Mr Voudouris' employees, Tatiana Taukiri, said she last saw him at 9pm on Sunday after she left work on what had been a quiet night
The 16-year-old Paeroa College student fought back tears as she said she received a call from her boyfriend about 7am yesterday telling her of the death.
She went to her workplace and saw Mr Voudouris lying face-down on the driveway at the rear of the premises.
She thought it was unusual that he was dressed in his work uniform and that appliances in the shop, including the pizza oven and deep fryer, were still switched on.
Miss Taukiri said Mr Voudouris was a popular man in the town.
He would often talk at length with his customers, causing orders to back up and business to slow, and would let unsettled bills at his restaurant pass if he knew people did not have enough money to pay him.
"He always said he would rather see people have something to eat than go hungry because they couldn't afford to pay. The customers loved him but I think he drove his accountant a bit nuts. He probably didn't make as much money as he could have."
Mr Voudouris is understood to have separated from his wife and left the Whangaparaoa area to move to Paeroa about seven or eight years ago.
Another of his employees, Rebekah Laurence, said he was still extremely close to his children and had been visited by his oldest daughter last week.
She said "pizza and his children were his life", and he closed his business each Monday so he could make the 90-minute trip to Auckland to visit his family.
One of Mr Voudouris' friends, Perry Cootes, said he would give children passing his shop free pizza slices or lollipops, and employed "way too many people".
He said the small township would be "gutted, mate" at the news.
Mr Cootes doubted Mr Voudouris had enemies wanting to cause him harm, but "a couple of grand worth of meat" had been taken in a break-in at the store a few months ago.
"I wouldn't imagine he'd had any problems because he was such a good guy. You couldn't have met a nicer person."
District rural field crime supervisor Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Whitehead said Mr Voudouris' death was unexplained and police were awaiting the findings of a pathologist today.
Police would "not enlarge" on what, if any, injuries Mr Voudouris had, other than to say there was a "possibility of some trauma".
He said the circumstances were of "sufficient concern" that the incident would be treated as a homicide until it could be determined otherwise.
Mr Whitehead would not say if the incident was a burglary gone wrong or if anything had been taken from the store.
There was "no indication at this stage" of any link between the death of Mr Voudouris and an aggravated robbery in Waihi or a robbery in Katikati.
Mr Voudouris' Facebook page showed he came from Giantissa in Greece, and he listed the movie Boy, feijoas, BMWs and Lemon and Paeroa among the things he liked.
His Mykonos Pizza and Pasta Paeroa Facebook page and a tribute page were inundated with messages.
"I wish you were here to see how many people loved you. How many hearts you touched, how much of an impact you had on the community," wrote Daisy Roma.
"All we have left to share are the fond memories you shared with each and every one of us."
Yamous Yamousari described Mr Voudouris as "my friend, everyone's mate, your friend, Paeroa's cultural icon".
Katey Ellis wrote: "You brought laughter, love and amazing pizzas to our town. You will never be forgotten. May you live long in the hearts of the ones who loved you."