Maria Yannacoulias earns legacy award

Tyler Clarke
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Maria Yannacoulias watches a speaker at the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce brunch on Thursday morning as she was given the annual Legacy Award for long-term contributions to the local business community. Her son Antony (Tony), who now also works at Venice House with her, can be seen behind Maria. 

Lives often take unexpected turns, and for Maria Yannacoulias it meant immigrating to Canada from Barbados, marrying a Greek immigrant and opening a restaurant in Prince Albert.


On Thursday, Yannacoulias and her family received the 2013 Samuel McLeod Business Awards’ Legacy Award for the 38 years they’ve spent owning and operating the Venice House Restaurant in downtown Prince Albert.

“I’m overwhelmed with this award, honestly,” Yannacoulias said on receiving the award during a luncheon at the Travelodge.

“If you told me 38 years ago when we first opened the restaurant that I would be receiving a business legacy award I would have not believed it. If you told me 40 years ago that the award would be for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, I would have had to grab a map!”

Born in Barbados, Yannacoulias immigrated to Canada in 1970. She met her future husband, Tony -- an immigrant from Greece -- at a French language school in Montreal.

The couple later relocated to Regina to meet up with Tony’s brother, George, who was already living in Saskatchewan.

On Dec. 1, 1976, Tony and George became owners of the Prince Albert Venice House.

Owning a business is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. kind of occupation, Yannacoulias told supporters at Thursday’s luncheon.

“When most people are out socializing is a time you must be working,” she said -- early days her son Antony remembers hearing stories about.

“They’d be working until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., and they’d actually sleep in the restaurant itself in front of the fireplace and wake up and keep going again,” he relayed after his mother’s presentation, which was capped off by a standing ovation.

Although it’s been hard work running a successful business, Yannacoulias said that it’s come with ample positives to help even out the hard times.

“I’ve been able to see people go from having their first date to returning years down the road to celebrate their anniversaries -- sometimes telling us they’re sitting at the same booth,” she said, adding that she’s seen a number of marriage proposals, as well.

“The restaurant has given me the opportunity to contribute to the special moment in people’s lives.

“You have to know your customer, know your city. To the best of your ability you give the people what they want -- you’re willing to work hard, work long hours but work smart. Be able to adapt to change, but not lose your identity at the same time. Make a good product and stand by it.”

A notable absence from Thursday’s luncheon was the Yannacoulias patriarch, Tony, who died in February of last year -- a man Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce president Mike Mitchell took a moment to recognize.

“If you knew Tony really well, over the years, Tony was always there, and Maria and their family, working hard,” he said. “That’s what successful businesses do -- they work really, really hard.

“You’d see him at the restaurant and he’d still be working hard even though, physically, it was very difficult for him to work. I always found that to be so inspirational. I always said to people … ‘There’s a man who’s dedicated his whole life to his family, his business and his community.’”

Although the family patriarch is gone, the family has continued on to its second generation, with Antony returning to the city to help continue the family legacy.

If you told me 38 years ago when we first opened the restaurant that I would be receiving a business legacy award I would have not believed it. If you told me 40 years ago that the award would be for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, I would have had to grab a map! Maria Yannacoulias

“I just like keeping the family name,” he explained on Thursday. “It’s been there for so long and they’ve worked so hard building it up.”

Last year, the family purchased the property east of the Venice House Restaurant -- Suzy Cue’s hotel and lounge, which they levelled in December to make room for a restaurant parking lot. They hope to pave it some time this summer.

On Thursday, Mayor Greg Dionne thanked the family for doing so, noting that they did the city a “favour” by taking down the building.

Tapping his stomach, Dionne also thanked the Yannacoulias family for supplying him with the “best ribs in town.”

Accompanying their new parking lot will be interior renovations to the restaurant, Yannacoulias said, adding that by the looks of it her family will keep the business going into the foreseeable future.

“This has been truly a pleasure to serve this fine city for almost 40 years, and we look forward to serving for very many more to come.”

In addition to awarding Maria Yannacoulias and her family with the 2013 Legacy Award, the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce announced the finalists for all 12 Samuel McLeod Business Award categories. They are as follows;


Female business leader of the year

Chelsea Reid

Celina Epp Neufeld

Janine Favreau


Male business leader of the year

Fred Matheson

David Fannon

Evert Botha


Business transformation

The Healing Garden Spa Therapies

Twilite Motel

Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy


Non-profit organization award



Prince Albert Habitat for Humanity Inc.


New product/service

The Healing Garden Spa Therapies

Sign Universe

Dr. Java’s Coffee House


New Venture

Maxwell Music

Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy

Dr. Java’s Coffee House


Community involvement

Prince Albert Multicultural Council

Salon Six

Giant Tiger



Carlton Trail Hearing Clinic

Designer Paws

A2Z Safety and Training Ltd.



TNT Trucks and Toys

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Twilite Motel



Darcy’s Golf shop Ltd.

Northern Lights Casino

Prince Albert Downtown Improvement District


Young Entrepreneur


Kat and Andy: Pre-Loved Clothing for Kids

Performing arts Warehouse


Business of the year

Ted Matheson Men’s Wear

The Healing Garden Spa Therapies

Embee Diamonds

Organizations: Prince Albert, Venice House Restaurant, Travelodge Prince Albert Venice House Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Coffee House Habitat for Humanity Carlton Trail Training Daily Herald Golf shop Northern Lights Casino

Geographic location: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Barbados, Canada Greece Montreal Regina

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