It’s been a good ride, more than four decades feeding hungry people, keeping them full and happy, running a restaurant and making payroll.
Now it’s over.
And Ted Botsis is going fishing.
Botsis, who’s run Dino’s Restaurant in Maple Ridge for almost the last 30 years, and his wife Trina, are hanging up their aprons. Ted is making his final stirs of his special lasagna meat sauce he makes twice a week and making the final batches of his home-made ranch, Italian and other dressings that are made from scratch.
A new owner has bought the building on 227th Street and Lougheed Highway from Ted’s brother, Mel Botsis, and his partner Peter Palivos.
“The end of the month is my last day here,” Ted says.
“After 30 years.”
That doesn’t mean Dino’s is done. The new owners will keep the restaurant running when they move in next month.
For Ted, the change came a bit early, but he’s not complaining.
“I was going to give her hell for the next five years.”
He was also going to retire when he was 40. He turns 70 in June.
“I’m still going out on my own terms, really.”
Ted and Trina have run the restaurant since 1983.
They also owned the Dino’s in Port Moody for more than 20 years and Stasias in Mission for five years until 1999.
The Maple Ridge Dino’s is the last in a chain that once stretched to 24 restaurants across the Lower Mainland.
Trina even met Ted in the Dino’s on Broadway in Vancouver in 1971. Ted was a cook and Trina a server. For the last three decades, Ted and Trina have worked steady. Ted used to work seven days a week. He’s now cut that back to six.
That tradition of longevity also carries on to the restaurant’s staff, with kitchen helper Robert having 10 years experience, and server Eva, who’s been there since 1989, and Margaret, also a server, who’s been there for 14 years.
Ted still savours the daily creation of the homemade meals and the connection with customers, many of whom are now friends.
“For me, it’s been good because I enjoy what I do here. I have the best meat sauce in B.C.”
Customer Debbie Ledgerwood agrees. She’s been coming to his restaurants in Port Moody and Maple Ridge for years, almost on a weekly basis.
“I’ve eaten his lasagna for 35 years and I’ll be so sad.” It’s the best lasagna, she adds.
As Ted looks back on the beginnings, he thinks of the kitchen, which he proudly shows. “I do have the best place in Vancouver, cleanliness wise.”
When he opened in 1983, Maple Ridge was a quieter place, but there wasn’t as much competition, either. Today, “There’s so many restaurants all over the place.”
Since locating on Lougheed, he’s renovated the restaurant three times. The two lots, including the 3,700-sq.-ft building and parking lot, sold last month for about $1.5 million.
The last couple of years have been rough in the restaurant business, especially since the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax in July 2010. It effectively raised the tax on restaurant meals from five to 12 per cent. That really hurt, Ted says.
After that came into effect, “You noticed people didn’t come in.”
He says if he was starting a restaurant today – he wouldn’t.
In the restaurant business, if you’re really good at running the business, you’re lucky if your profit margin is 10 per cent.
“If I had $4 million to $5 million behind me, then I would say, yes.”
He wants to make sure he doesn’t sound like he’s complaining about leaving the business.
“I’m very proud of what I do here. I’m very proud of what I’ve done, serving the public for the past 45 years.
Now, “I’ll go fishing.”