Remembering pioneer entrepreneur Fred Poteet

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Before Blockbuster, before Netflix, there was Mr. Video, the largest chain of video rental stores in Georgia (four) and headquartered in Fayetteville.

It was the brainchild of Fred Poteet, who took a small inheritance from his wife Gail’s parents and started with a small store with 100 VHS films.

After Mr. Video, Fred and Gail opened a small restaurant called “Gail’s Lonestar Cafe.” Within a few weeks there were one-hour waiting lines, followed by a new and larger building. Gail’s Lonestar Cafe, like Mr. Video, began expanding, opening in Peachtree City and in Jonesboro.

Fred and Gail met when they were 12 years old and were married at age 16. Working at odd jobs and not finding success to support his wife and two children, they moved from Chattanooga to Riverdale in the late ’70s where their third child was born, then to Fayetteville in the early ’80s.

After the tragic death of their son Justin in 1992, things seemed to go downhill with Gail and Fred moving to the north Georgia mountains in the mid 1990s. They opened another steak house in Ellijay that lasted a few years, then moved to Blairsville and into the real estate business.

Again success found them and within a couple of years, Gail, Fred and their daughter Becka had their own agency and were doing well, until the market turned sour.

Afterwards, Gail found a job at the local hospital and Fred applied for and was accepted as a guard at a low risk state prison facility in Blairsville.

Things were starting to settle down, when Fred was diagnosed with esophagus and stomach cancer in mid-2011. After extensive surgery, he was healing fine when it was discovered the cancer had metastasized throughout his body.

Fred Poteet passed away in his sleep sometime during the night of Jan. 2, 2012. He had just celebrated his 57th birthday. Fred leaves his wife Gail, daughters Becka and Carly and four grandchildren, plus a lot of close family and friends.

He once told my son Scott, “Everybody’s gotta have an ‘Uncle Fred.’ I guess I’m yours.”

Fred Poteet was one of a kind, a true entrepreneur, an entertainer, a loving husband, father and grandfather. So long, “Uncle Fred.” Our family will have a hollow place without you there.

The funeral is Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 1 p.m. at the Mountain View Funeral Home in Blairsville, Ga.

Larry Blanks

Fayetteville, Ga.