Tradition to continue

By Geoff Lee

January 31, 2017 12:00 AM

SO LONG, MR. BILL Mr. Bill's Restuarant, owned by Bill Kokonas, centre, and his wife Deb, left, have sold their business of 18 years to former server, Michelle Houde-Beraskin, right, who is keeping the name and the menu the same. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Mr. Bill's restaurant changes hands, but will continue as is

It’s been a well kept local secret that Mr. Bill and his wife Deb Kokonas no longer own Mr. Bill’s Family Restaurant.
That’s because Mr. Bill and Deb are still fixtures at the business even after selling it on Dec. 19 to former employee, Michelle Houde-Beraskin.
The former owners are helping Houde-Beraskin behind the scenes to transition the business that hasn’t changed one iota since the sale.
“Everything will remain the same, same staff, same menu, exactly the same,” said Houde-Beraskin on Monday while Mr. Bill and Deb ate their lunch.
The Kokonas’ are at Mr. Bill’s four days a week.
“Michelle is going to do fantastic job owning and operating Mr. Bill’s and is looking forward to carrying on Mr. Bill’s hard work and legacy,” said Deb.
“Please stop by and wish Michelle your best as well as bid us goodbye as we transition into retirement.”
Continuity and consistency—notably their service and food—were among the keys to the success of Mr. Bill’s during the Kokonas’ 18 years of ownership.
“I believe it was first class food and service,” added Deb.
“We added new things and we’ve taken things off that haven’t worked, but the menus been much the same through all these years.”
She credits her hubby whom she also calls Mr. Bill when it comes to the business, for creating the popular menu items.
“We have a Mr. Bill’s garlic chicken dish that’s he’s invented,” she said, adding all of their soups including lemon rice soup are homemade and will continue to be under new ownership.
The decision to sell out was a no brainer with Mr. Bill turning 65 and unable to keep up the pace due to onset of vascular dementia.
“We’ve been doing it 18 years and we think now is a good time to retire,” said Deb, who ran the front of the restaurant with Mr. Bill in the kitchen.
“We can’t say enough about the amazing staff at Mr. Bill’s—when he became ill, they all stepped up in a variety of ways.”
Deb also credits Mr. Bill’s customers for their support over the years.
“They are amazing, they are why we are here and have been so successful because they’re the ones who have supported us for so many years,” she said.
The restaurant opened in January 1999 with help from a mentor, Otto Hvidston, who Deb says was instrumental in getting the business off to a good start as the sole owners.
“Thank you first and foremost to Otto and his family for their kindness and friendship,” said Deb.
Prior to that, Mr. Bill ran three other restaurants with partners including the Shell Ranchero, the 3K Ranch House and the Greek Classic Restaurant.
Mr. Bill came to Saskatchewan from Greece as a young man to join his two brothers and moved to Lloydminster in 1970.
One of his brothers, Spiro, started Spiro’s Family Restaurant.
Deb, who was born and raised in Lloydminster, said she caught Mr. Bill’s eye while she was at the takeout window at the Ranchero.
The couple got married in 1974 and have two adult children and six grandkids.

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