Life has a way of taking place us places we never would have imagined.
Just ask Maria Yannacoulias, the 2013 Legacy Award winner for exemplary long-term service to Prince Albert’s business community.
A number of things had to happen for this unlikely destination to become part of her life’s path.
First, she had to emigrate from Barbados to Montreal. Then she had to take a French class that just happened to also be attended by a Greek immigrant named Tony Yannacoulias.
They would become a couple and then move to Regina to meet up with Tony’s brother, George, who was already living there.
Then they would have to buy a restaurant in Prince Albert. And on Dec. 1, 1976, Tony and George became owners of the Prince Albert Venice House, setting Maria directly on the course that saw her honoured on Thursday morning.
“I’m overwhelmed with this award, honestly,” she said after 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!”
It would take a hard heart -- or perhaps head -- not to be touched by this success story.
While Maria was clearly touched when she spoke of Tony, who the community lost just over a year ago, it was an award that he shared.
The couple raised a family as they built their business.
Son Tony was there with his mom on Thursday morning and said he grew up knowing what it takes to be successful
“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.”
If you look at the list of Legacy Award winners in the last decade, with the names Leo Fontaine, Roger Mann, Malcolm Jenkins, Rod Postle, Barry and Donna Dutchak, Ed Dmyterko, Herschel Davidner, Ed Tash, Wayne Pearson and the Gray Family on it, you get a sense of the hard work that it has taken to build both the business community and the city itself.
Not all of them have quite as compelling a back story as the Yannacoulias story but the individual paths they took all led to business success in Prince Albert.
They have to care about their enterprise, their staff and the customers that they serve.
Maria Yannacoulias had a nice story about that when she accepted the award. She spoke about seeing many marriage proposals over the years and then having some of those couples come back to celebrate anniversaries years later.
It’s an amazing thing when someone’s business grabs a little piece of the heart of the people that it serves.
Tony and Maria’s path led them there. Congratulations to the entire family for the award.
Prince Albert Daily Herald