While she was still grieving with the unexpected loss of the man she loved, Deedee was given the task of running her husband’s pizza store that he opened in 1991. With her husband gone, Deedee was left to learn how to run the restaurant along with one of her daughters who left her job at a law firm to help her mother. Although she did not know much about the behind the scenes aspect of running a restaurant, Deedee work as hard as she could to keep the doors open. Deedee and her daughter put all their efforts into the pizzeria and hardly ever took breaks from work. However, Deedee was struggling to keep the store running and make her payments when she received an unexpected surprise.
When Deedee came back to her pizza store from a vacation she knew something was not right. She could not tell at first, but upon closer investigation she could see that there was a change to her restaurant before she even stepped inside. Deedee did not understand what was going on with her store and she went to check it out. When she opened the door, Deedee was stunned by what she saw and had an astonishing reaction.
Losing her husband
Deedee Zgonis lived in New Hampshire with her loving husband Yianni until he unfortunately passed away in 2012. Deedee was devastated by her husband’s passing and she was trying to cope with his loss. The couple owned a pizza store in their hometown town of Bedford and Deedee used to help Yianni out with the business. After her husband’s untimely death, it was Deedee’s responsibility to run the store.
Taking over the restaurant
With her husband gone, Deedee had the choice to either keep running the restaurant or close its doors. Deedee decided to take over the restaurant while she was still trying to come to terms with her Yianni’s death. While Deedee had spent time in the restaurant, she had a lot to learn and she had to quickly learn the ins and outs of the business. This would be a big task for anyone and even more so for a widow still who was grieving.
Working through the grief
Deedee was left to navigate the confusing world of finances as she was learning how to run a business, teaching herself how to run a payroll, and struggling to make her mortgage payments. Deedee’s friends and family noticed that she was having a hard time adjusting to her new reality. One of her daughter’s left her job at a law firm to help her out with the pizzeria. Deedee did not let her hardships stop her and she continued to work in the midst of her grief.
Leaving her job
Thankfully for Deedee, her daughter offered to help her through this challenging time and sacrificed her own career to help her mother. When asked in an interview why she left her job at a law firm, Vickie Zgonis explained, “It’s family; it’s kind of what you do,” she continued “If they need you, you step up to the plate and do it.” With her daughter by her side, Deedee continued to work hard to keep her business running.
Deedee was determined to succeed and she worked hard everyday and kept going. She had a mantra that she would often remind herself of. She would say, “No matter what happens, you can overcome it.” Deedee was taking her own advice and trying her hardest to overcome the obstacles set before her. Although it seemed an impossible task sometimes, Deedee just kept working harder. One day, out of the blue, Deedee received a surprising phone call.
A surprising call
The call was from Eastern Bank. Deedee initially thought they were calling about bills or mortgage payments, however, the call had nothing to do with her payments. The bank was calling to inform Deedee of some good news! She was the winner of a project called “Good Things Happen to Good People.” Without Deedee’s knowledge, her banker, Debbie Blondin, nominated her for the contest. So what did she receive for winning?
A weekend getaway
When asked why she nominated Deedee Zgonis, Debbie Blondin told the news, “She has a fabulous local business, but… she’s one of those people who gives probably more than she gets.” Blondin knew how hard Deedee was working and that she was still dealing with her husband’s death and she thought she needed some time off. The bank gave Zgonis a trip to Florida for a weekend at a spa.
More surprises ahead
Zgonis had a relaxing and enjoyable weekend at the spa and embraced her chance to take a break from work. She enjoyed her massages and manicures and did not have to think about work. Deedee could have never imagined that more surprises were coming her way. While Deedee was away, her close friends were working hard to plan an amazing surprise for her. They knew how deserving Zgonis was and they wanted to ease her burden.
Getting back to work
Ever the hard worker that she is, as soon as Zgonis’ plane landed back in New Hampshire, she headed straight back to her pizza store. Now that she was back from vacation, it was time to get back into her routine and work. She could not have prepared herself for what she was about to see. When Deedee opened the door to the restaurant, she was stunned. The pizzeria was completely transformed.
A brand new restaurant
Zgonis was expecting to get right back to work when she got to the pizza shop, however, she was in for a big surprise. When she walked in, Deedee covered her mouth and shouted “Oh my God! Are you kidding me?” She could not believe what she was seeing. The whole restaurant was renovated and all of her friends, family, and volunteers were standing in the restaurant and waiting to see her reaction.
A gift for Deedee
It all became clear to Deedee in that moment. The reason she was sent on a spa trip to Florida was not just because her friend’s wanted her to have a vacation. Her loved ones were planning to renovate the pizzeria and surprise her and they knew they could not do it if she was there. Everyone knew that Deedee thought about redoing the restaurant for a long time but she could not afford it. Her friends decided to all come together and do it for her as a gift.
She couldn’t believe it
Zgonis was clearly grateful for the surprise and her family and friend’s hard work. In an interview with the local news, Deedee recalled the moment she walked into her new store. She said, “I couldn’t believe it,” she continued, “My knees just buckled from under me.” Deedee could not believe the sacrifices that her loved ones made for her and everyone could tell by her excited reaction. When asked if she liked the renovation, Zgonis gave a priceless answer.
An emotional reaction
When her loved asked Zgonis what she thought of the new restaurant she responded, “It’s frickin’ beautiful! Deedee could not hold back the tears at seeing the beautiful new pizzeria. Deedee was enjoying her new store but she did not know that there were two more surprises waiting around the corner for her. When she saw what was waiting for her, she could not contain her emotions.
Her children were there
Zgonis could not believe her eyes! Her daughters who had moved away from New Hampshire were in the store! The bank had brought them in to be involved in decorating the restaurant. At the sight of her children, Deedee was completely overwhelmed and tears began streaming down her face. She could not believe that her family and community came together to do something so nice for her. She was so grateful for everyone’s efforts in helping her.
Grateful for the remodel
Zgonis ran to hug and kiss her daughters and she was so happy to see them. Deedee was so thankful that her bank had chosen her for this project. Later on in her interview with the local news, Deedee explained that she wanted to remodel her restaurant but she had to chose between buying a new pizza oven or redoing the store. Now she did not have to make the choice and she got both!
A deserving person
The employees at the bank knew about Zgonis’ situation and they wanted to take some of the weight off her shoulders. Deedee was so grateful for her the help from the people around her and she said, “People come into my life that are just beautiful people, and I’m lucky that way,” she continued on to say, “I don’t know what makes me more deserving than anyone else.” Zgonis was always modest and felt that she did not deserve the gift that she received.
The employee’s reaction
The employees at the pizzeria also had an emotional reaction to the renovation. They knew how deserving their boss was and they were so happy that the restaurant got a much needed transformation. One of the employees, Maddie Grocott said of Deedee’s reaction, “Vickie showed (Eastern Bank’s video) to me, and I cried.” All of the employees at the restaurant were thrilled for Deedee and they were thankful of be a part of the community.
“The perfect candidate”
But the bank considered Deedee as “the perfect candidate” to receive to generous gift. They knew how hard she was working to keep her business alive and she was doing it while still mourning the loss of her beloved husband. She was described as, “the sweetheart of Eastern Bank” by Blondin who was happy to see that Deedee was grateful for the help they gave her.
Her daughters moved away
Deedee had three daughters, two of whom had moved away. All of them came to surprise their mother and Deedee was overjoyed to see them as they do not get a chance to get together often. Themie is one of the daughters and she lives in California. She said of the new restaurant, “We just cannot describe how grateful we are for this entire process, and how beautiful Pizza Bella is looking.”
If her husband was there
Another daughter, Litza lives in New York and she explained the this was exactly what her mother needed. She said it was “really validating” for Deedee to be nominated by the bank and that it gave her, “the extra boost of confidence that she deserves.” Deedee’s third daughter Vicki spoke about how she thought her father would react saying that he would have been “floored” by the renovation and the community coming together for Deedee.
Home for the holidays
Eastern Bank already did so much for the Zgonis but they were about to do one more thing that they did not intend to do. Since all of Deedee’s daughters were in New Hampshire to surprise her, they were able to stay for Thanksgiving! Zgonis could spend the holiday with the people she loved and she was so happy to have all of her children home for the holiday.