They’ve been a community staple for over 40 years, since founder Peter Tsianos opened the doors of the (now more than) burger joint, Hi-Life Burger, in 1978, but only recently has the family-owned business received a rite-of-passage for businesses in South Pasadena, an official ribbon cutting.
A favorite hotspot for locals satisfying many early morning and evening cravings — with the customary after-school (or after-work) treats in between — the affectionately dubbed “legend in town” by Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurie Wheeler, has served up burgers, fries, tacos, and breakfast burritos for decades. According to the Greek-American South Pasadenan, when he moved into town “there was almost nothing around on Fair Oaks… they were still taking out the old train tracks.”
What he and his wife, Pandora, left for their two sons, Nick and George, was a lasting legacy however. Now the current co-owners of Hi-Life, the sons take up the mantle of a true family-run business. Oftentimes reminiscing over the opportunities their parents have provided for both employees and family — the boys often spent time at the restaurant growing up, a pastime immortalized on the photos displayed on soda cups — Nick also confessed to the South Pasadenan News, “It was hard times when our father started and our mother started this restaurant, there was no time for anything. They could barely afford to eat their own food. So now it’s such a big day for us, it’s so important to us.”
Even more so, Nick also hopes that his father’s imprint will also be recognized with a simple gesture. “Our father, himself, never had his picture on the wall; it was always everybody else except him. So we thought hey, today is the perfect opportunity, as he deserves to have his picture on the wall. Here he is, and we couldn’t be happier to have made it this far.”
Nick also expressed both gratitude and some relief, after COVID’s bumps in the road, that the newest addition to the business, an outdoor patio, was finally completed. “We’re very proud of it, it was a big, big step forward for us. We’ve wanted an outdoor patio since I think 1989, so now we were able to accomplish it. We made it!” he exclaimed.
The cause for occasion opened up the opportunity to have the community come and celebrate the long-overdue ribbon cutting, with dignitaries like Mayor Diana Mahmud relating to the over-40-year-old establishment, telling the crowd that as a mother of a former employee, she too shares some family ties. Mahmud expressed her excitement over the “beautiful and so functional” new patio, “I love what you have also [is] added additional value and service to our people,” she complimented. “I know you’re also involved in the community, donat[ing] to various things. Thank you very much, so many, many more decades.”
Eager to grab some grub off the menu, others in attendance shared their own personal connections to the stand that has a special place in many-a-heart. Former Mayor Bob Joe, Chamber of Commerce members Michele Downing and Sam Hernandez, as well former City Treasurer Gary Pia and a representative for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, cheered in celebration as The Tsianos thanked everyone for the support once again, Peter and family beckoning, “Now let’s have some breakfast burritos!”, to much applause.