The original Happy Days Diner opened its doors in Pauls Valley in 2009, and on July 18 they opened their second location in Ardmore.
Owner Reza Ghanaati explained how he first got started in the restaurant industry.
“In 1978, I came to the United States from Iran and went to Philllips University in Enid, Oklahoma,” Ghanaati said. The following year he transferred to a university in Houston and got a part-time job that ended up turning into a career.
“I was going to college and at the same time I was working for Denny’s as a cook,” he said. After graduating from college in 1983 with a degree in civil engineering, he left Denny’s to focus on finding a career in his field. Then Hurricane Alicia struck.
“I got a call from the Denny’s district manager and they asked me to help them out for the day,” Ghanaati said. “I walked back into Denny’s and, that might have been a mistake, but it’s what I did!”
He continued working for Denny’s and ended up operating their Pauls Valley restaurant until it closed in 2008. He then decided to take a risk and reopen the location as Happy Days Diner.
“In 2008/2009 everything was going downhill,” Ghanaati said. “The economy was kind of faltering. People told me not to open it back up, that nobody was going to come to eat. But I opened it back up and the people of Pauls Valley were a big support.”
He went on to describe the inspiration for the name of the diner.
“I was always running home from my class in college to watch a show called Happy Days because it was my favorite show,” he said.
Taking its decor cues from the inspiration, Happy Days Diner in Pauls Valley is set up like a fifties diner and is decorated with photographs of Pauls Valley taken during the era. Ghanaati is looking forward to doing the same thing in Ardmore. Due to contractural conditions with the hotel to which the restaurant is connected, they needed to quickly open for business, but renovations are on the horizon.
“Hopefully in the next four or five months, we’ll wok on doing what we do in Pauls Valley. The carpet is coming up and being replaced with black and white tiles,” he said. “I’m also really looking for someone to help me to find some pictures from Ardmore in the 1950’s.” He said local pictures help to make a connection with the community.
“That’s what the whole purpose is,” Ghanaati said. “To have that community.”
When Ghanaati is not busy running his restaurants, he enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife Pam have three children and one grandchild. They will be celebrating their 35th anniversary later this year.
“My life has been full. I’m very, very happy,” Ghanaati said.