Brian Tahririha already had a pretty good job when an opportunity of a lifetime came up.
Tahririha is a real estate agent who noticed that the popular Lost in the '50s drive-in at 7741 Edmonds St. was up for sale.
Formerly from Iran but raised in Alberta, Tahririha had worked in the hospitality industry previously and this was his way back into the business.
"This place was shut down for more than a year and we've undergone a huge renovation," Tahririha said. "We will be open very soon and we'll be serving an original, healthy menu using AAA Alberta beef and only the freshest ingredients. ... We'll also try and have a fusion menu with kebabs, chicken tandoori and donairs."
Tahririha knows that fresh homestyle burgers will always be the big draw, but adding more dishes is what will keep loyal customers continually coming back for more, he said.
Tahririha has already put more time and money into the restaurant than he initially expected.
"I thought the renovations would take two weeks and we're already at more than six weeks," he said. "And there was so much we had to clean up."
Not only has the entire back area where the picnic tables are now been cleaned, a gardener was clearing out the grass along the property line to give it a fresher look.
When Tahririha tried to open one of the refrigerators, he realized he couldn't because the floor had rotted through and that meant having to replace all of the floors.
Putting new equipment into the restaurant gives the interior a much more modern look and the retro paint job outside has given it an old-style look that former customers can relate to.
Tahririha doesn't want to divulge how much the renovations have cost so far, but he did say he's cutting no corners in trying to revitalize the drive-thru that had been popular for many decades. He also has no plans to quit being a real estate agent and he's been busy juggling both jobs for many months now.
Car aficionados had come from near and far to the drive-in and it was wellknown for its hearty and affordable food.
Tahririha has relocated the picnic tables from the front to the back and will have a fully-functioning drive-thru window in addition to the traditional drive-in. One thing he couldn't change was the heritage sign, which will need thousands of dollars of work to get neon lighting re-installed.
"It's a heritage sign and we're working with the city on it," said Tahririha.
Tahririha said the drive-in will employ four or five people.
"I have so many people coming up and saying they can't wait for this place to reopen," he said. "I joked that I would already be open if I didn't spend all my time talking to people who came to see what was going on."
In fact, as Tahririha was being photographed and interviewed, two construction workers came by and were visibly disappointed to discover they would have to have lunch elsewhere.
The diner has long been a neighbourhood hotspot where customers knew they could get homestyle burgers made quickly and sold affordably. Manual labourers and truckers from across the region made it a point to have lunch at the diner.
At night, the teenage set would hang out, ordering burgers and milkshakes.
At its height in the late-'70s and early-'80s, Lost in the '50s was the place to be seen for Burnaby and New Westminster hipsters.
On special occasions, local car, dragster and motorcycle groups would make the diner a start or end point for their rallies or meetings.
With that history in mind, Tahririha has started reaching out to local car clubs who hold regional rallies to tell them they will soon have a new - but old - meeting place.
Tahririha also hopes to have ice cream, milkshakes and fresh fruit as menu options when he does open - the targeted soft opening is mid-to late-July depending on when he gets certified by the health inspector.
"I don't want to disappoint people," he said. "When we do open, we'll have the best and freshest ingredients and people will be very impressed. I know we'll have people coming from a long ways away, so we want to give them the best meal possible."
The Lost in the '50s Drive In is located at 7741 Edmonds in South Burnaby.