During the past 40 years, people have marked their milestones at a family restaurant in Burnaby.
The matriarch, Poppy Siormanolakis, fondly remembers the people who have gotten engaged at Romana restaurant in the Heights, asking her to bring out ring boxes or desserts with a sparkly treat inside.
Her daughter Jenny, who manages much of the restaurant's public relations, points out that the restaurant is also there at the end of customers' lives, providing a "last meal" to those who are in hospice care.
Owner Eugene Siormanolakis and Poppy - whose real name is Europe - have also seen much of the most important aspects of their lives play out at the restaurant.
"I would never have thought that having my kids growing up the restaurant, I'd see my grandkids inside the restaurant," Poppy says, gesturing to her three grandchildren who are playing nearby.
Jenny's young daughter, Eleni Nikolaidis, is a hostess on the weekends, handing out menus and taking orders.
Jenny's sister Nora, who also works at the restaurant and handles the Romana website, has two young children who are regular fixtures as well - Aria and Pavlo Iliakis.
But the family extends out into the community, as well, according to Poppy.
"The most important thing is, the customers, they become part of our family," she says.
Poppy and Eugene met in November 1973 in Greece through a matchmaker. Poppy was still living in Greece, and Eugene had opened Romana restaurant with five partners about half a year before meeting her, on April 9.
Eugene brought his new wife back to Canada, and they have run the restaurant ever since.
Coming to Canada without knowing anyone here was difficult, Nora says of her mother, which is why the connections made at the restaurant have been so important to Poppy.
"It's that she's made so many friends as customers and all they do is come back to see Mama Poppy," she says. "She's seen families grow, and they always bring back their grandkids and grandparents. She's made so many friends."
Eugene chose to open the restaurant in the Heights because there weren't a lot of options for good eating in the area at the time.
"There just wasn't any restaurants around," he says.
There were only four or five restaurants between the PNE and Port Moody, according to Jenny.
In 1986, a food critic from The Province ate at the restaurant and wrote a review, voting it the second-best pizza place in Vancouver for Expo 86, according to the family.
"We were closed that day, we had painted the restaurant when we found out that customers were waiting outside," Eugene says. "I said, 'I'm sorry, we're closed.' They said, 'Then why you are advertising?' - they thought we were advertising in the newspaper."
Eugene told the customers they could stay if they didn't mind the smell of the paint, he says, and a few did.
Jenny and Nora began working at the restaurant when they were 12 years old, taking phone orders and working at the cash register.
"Slowly, as I got a little bit older, I started bussing tables and serving," Jenny says.
But Nora points out the sisters were at the restaurant as children long before they started working there.
"We were here before we were 12 years old," she says. "We'd be here in the back, falling asleep in the back, while they're making pizzas."
The two have worked in every aspect of the business, and these days that means keeping the restaurant current online and on social media.
"We've done everything, her and I," Jenny says.
One of the reasons for the restaurant's longevity in the area is that the family struck its own path, Jenny says.
Rather than viewing other restaurants as competition and trying to keep up with trends, they have focused on what works for their establishment.
"As a business, you cannot focus on what others are doing," she says. "If you do that, you lose your business."
The restaurant launched its first website in 1998, before many others were doing so, she points out, and in recent years it has built a following on Facebook and Twitter, with 50 new followers per year on Twitter, Jenny adds.
"We've been able to not advertise, but have a website," she says. "Whereas in the early '70s, all it was was a big Yellow Pages advertisement - that's all you needed."
There has been another welcome advancement in recent years - the changes in the neighbourhood are bringing more people to the restaurant.
"I think for the first time ever, in this section of the Heights, we actually have pedestrian traffic," Jenny says. "In 40 years, we never had pedestrian traffic."
The family attributes the shift to new developments in the area, and more family activities going on, with the art schools, Eileen Dailly recreation centre, the library, and the Dolphin Theatre all nearby.
The family had an open house earlier in the year to kick off 40 years in the Heights, and is planning an event around the anniversary date, April 9.
For details on future events, and information on the restaurant, go to www.romanarestaurant.com.