Cleveland's Sizzler helps love blossom for more than two decades

TRUE LOVE: Tori Van Der Donk, who was known as Vicki Cleary before getting married, and husband Stephen saying goodbye to Cleveland's Sizzler. Photo: Jocelyn Garcia
TRUE LOVE: Tori Van Der Donk, who was known as Vicki Cleary before getting married, and husband Stephen saying goodbye to Cleveland's Sizzler. Photo: Jocelyn Garcia

TWO couples devastated to hear about the demise of Cleveland’s Sizzler have looked back on the good times, crediting their former workplace for sparking the sizzle in their relationships.

Redland City Bulletin discovered some cheesy love stories after writing about a proposal to close the family restaurant and replace it with a Taco Bell.

Tori Van Der Donk, who was known as Vicki Cleary, and husband Stephen joined the original Sizzler team at the Cleveland restaurant nearly 27 years ago.

Now married for 23 years, it was around the famous salad bar the Birkdale couple first set their sights on each other.

“I thought he was a bit of a dag but he managed to charm his way,” Mrs Van Der Donk said.

“I remember we invited friends and family to Sizzler before it opened to show them how it all worked.”

Mr Van Der Donk said the landmark was a big deal for young people who were seeking jobs and wanted a social lifestyle.

“We created the social environment because we were the first ones there so we ended up being a close knit group,” he said.

“It was busy and exciting (as soon as the doors opened) because there were so many customers – there was never a dull moment.”

The duo said they were sad to see the end of an era.

The Van Der Donk’s were not the only couple whose love story began at the restaurant.

Aimee Strickland followed in the footsteps of her three sisters, including one who was part of the founding staff team, to work at Sizzler.

”I was 15 when I applied to work there and that’s where I met my husband,” she said.

“It was such a great team. We all came from different backgrounds and had a lot of social gatherings together so Daniel and I were just friends at the time.

“We didn’t start dating until we finished high school.”

Mrs Strickland said they moved to Townsville for work and returned home in 2002 to marry.

“The guy who hired us (to work at Sizzler) Steven Smith was at our wedding,” she said.

“He left Sizzler and opened a restaurant where Woolworths is now called Steven’s By The Bay and that’s where we had our wedding reception.”

Mr Van Der Donk said he also remembered Mr Smith as a well-loved Sizzler manager, pianist and great role model.

“I was studying business management at college at the same time I worked there and he was such a big influence to me,” he said.

Mrs Stricklands said she would always look back at her time at Sizzler.

“The best people I have ever met was the team there and some are still my friends today,” she said.

“There’s very good memories in those four walls so it is very sad to see it shut down.”

Share your Sizzler pics with Redland City Bulletin by using the form below.