Want to purchase today’s print edition? Here’s a map of single-copy locations.
Sign up for our daily newsletter here
CHAMPAIGN — Peter Vrinios and Tamela Behm were married at sunset on a Florida island beach, but Vrinios’ ties to a piece of family history in downtown Champaign dictated where the reception would be.
The reception had to be at The Venue CU on downtown Champaign’s Main Street — housed in the historic building that was once the home of Vriner’s, the family restaurant founded by Vrinios’ grandfather as Vriner’s Confectionary in 1898.
Invited to the reception Friday were family members from Chicago and Champaign, and friends Peter grew up with, he said.
“The people who are coming are part of the history from a long time ago,” he said.
Behm and Vrinios, who live in Bradenton, Fla., met in 2019 at a Christmas party at IMG Academy in Bradenton, where they were both working. They began dating a few months later, in March 2020.
Behm said she had been sitting outside a bar with friends when Vrinios rode by on a bicycle, and a while later, a waitress told her a man wanted to buy her a drink and also said to her, “I’m supposed to call you Jennifer Garner.”
She went inside to meet this guy, and saw it was Vrinios, who’d told her at the Christmas party that she looked like the “Alias” and “Elektra” star, she recalled.
They dated through the pandemic and were married Aug. 5 on Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.
“Before we came up, he made me watch ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ — 1, 2 and 3,” Behm said Friday.
Vriner’s isn’t just a part of Peter Vrinios’ family history. It’s also a part of Champaign’s history. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and it was memorialized on the cover of REO Speedwagon’s second studio album, “R.E.O./T.W.O.”
Vrinios said he started working in Vriner’s as a child and continued through the time his father operated the restaurant. He and his siblings took over when their dad passed away in 1993, until it closed in 1997.
When Vrinios moved to Florida, he took the marble counter, copper kettles and gas burners used to make candy canes with him, and he’s continued the tradition of candy-cane making on Anna Maria Island.
Dan Church, one of the owners of The Venue CU, said event guests — more the grandparents than the younger people — often recall the space as the old Vriner’s.
“A big part of the journey was the historical relevance of the space,” he said.