Darren Gates with his 11-year-old daughter Grace at the back entrance to Mario's Kitchen
In the famous '80s TV sitcom "Cheers", the refrain tells you the bar is a place where "everybody knows your name." In Tsawwassen, the owners of Mario's Kitchen strive for a somewhat similar personal touch, as Darren and Liz Gates are in the restaurant daily to meet new diners and greet returning ones.
"We've gotten to know people here and that's a luxury that brings more enjoyment out of running the business," says Darren. "Running a restaurant is going to be hard work regardless, so it's nice to be able to do it around people you recognize and get along with."
Originally from a farming family in Saskatchewan, Darren started his culinary career with Keg Restaurants in his early twenties. As the years went by he worked for several other restaurants, always with the goal of owning his own place.
And then, four and a half years ago the Gates family heard about Mario's Kitchen being for sale. At the time, they were living in Steveston in Richmond, and decided to take a drive through the tunnel to check out the restaurant.
But it wasn't just the potential of owning their own business that drew them here; they enjoyed seeing the distinct neighbourhoods, the beaches, the farmland, and could envision themselves living here.
"We started to drive through the community and the neighbourhoods and that started to compel us," recalls Darren. "We liked the community and we thought it was a good place to raise our kids."
They made the move in 2012 along with their three kids, now aged 11, 10, and seven. Today, they're immersed in the community as much as they are their business.
Darren says his family enjoys the familiarity of the faces who comes into the restaurant and the close relationships they've built in the community, whether it be sponsoring local intiatives through the restaurant or joining clubs and activities.
Despite the reputation of restaurants being hard work with long hours, Darren says the rewards are worthwhile when they hear positive feedback from their customers.
"We like the town and we want to be around for as long as we can. That's motivating to us."
Mario's offers a wide variety of services including, but not limited to, pick-up, delivery, in-house dining, wine tastings, beer tastings, and exceptional homemade desserts.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, Monday to Thursday from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, 11:30 am to 10 pm on Fridays, 10 am to 10 pm on Saturdays, and 10 am to 9:30 pm on Sundays.