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Romana Pizza is here to stay

Heights pizza icon finds second life in new owners

After more than 40 years of kneading dough on Hastings Street, the Siormanolakis family is hanging up their aprons and handing the recipes over to new owners.

As of April 1, Romana Pizza will have new owners to carry on the long legacy established by Poppy and Eugene Siormanolakis, who first opened its doors on April 9, 1973.

"From the moment we announced that (it was for sale), it was immediate interest," Jenny Siormanolakis, daughter of Eugene and Poppy, told the Burnaby NOW. "Our realtor worked really hard for us. He took so many calls and showed the restaurant so many times."

But it was the continued interest of Calvin Han, 25, and his silent partner that finally won the family, and the landlord, over.

"We were able to find someone who was willing to keep the restaurant going," she said. "He doesn't want to change a thing on the menu. I'm sure eventually he will, but his main goal and the best piece of advice we can give him, is learn that kitchen."

For Han, this is the first restaurant he's owned, and he hopes to bring his tourism background into the mix.

"I do have a business in China, running a clothing shop, but it's a completely different thing," he said. "Also, I just graduated from school one year ago."

Han said he intends to keep everything exactly the same, from the recipes to the staff.

"The food here is so great. I love this food," he noted. "I will put my 100 per cent energy, my heart here and learn how to make this food."

Eugene and Poppy said they intend to help Calvin in the first few weeks of his business, and the family will stop by again to help out for Hat's Off Day.

"It's scary in the beginning," Poppy said. "When you start something, it's scary. Is it going to work? It has to work. It will work because you have to put your heart into it."

Jenny said Calvin's strong background in tourism, and the contacts he's acquired through it, could benefit the whole area, as well.

"If every restaurant's busier because of a few tour buses coming into this area ... it's a win for everybody," she said. "He's got the vision and the goals to try and not just help his business, but help this community and that's all you want. You're not in business just for you. You're also in this business for the people around you."

Han said he's excited for the chance to get to know the Heights community.

"I feel really appreciative of the family here helping me," he said. "In my dream, I'm running my own business. That's the dream I got before and right now it's becoming true. I get to work with people, communicate with people. It's also a challenge for myself and I like that."

For the family's realtor, Frank Pupo, he said it's rare to sell a business that's belonged to the same family for more than 40 years.

"There's a large emotional attachment to it because (these) guys have been here 41 years," he said. "That was a big thing that stood out in my mind."

Pupo said there was a substantial amount of interest, and it was a joint effort from all parties to make Romana Pizza's future work.

"They're young, they're ambitious," he said of the new owners. "They're fortunate to be able to take on something that has a strong history in the community."

Customers became an extension to the Siormanolakis family over the years and that is what kept the restaurant going, according to Poppy.

"Years ago, they would say, 'No, it's competition," she said. "But no, there's not, it's not the word for me. I don't believe in competition because all of us, all the small restaurants around us and all the small business, they're trying to feed their families and that's what it's all about. It's all about the family and the community."

Eugene agreed.

"Community is the main thing," he noted. "Our family wants to thank the whole community for support for 41 years."

Both Eugene and Poppy said they're looking forward to relaxing after 41 years of working seven days a week.