CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rachel Coffman, Erin Maradei and Allie Bodnar gathered in the Charleston Town Center Mall's food court for one last meal together at a favorite restaurant.
Coffman, a lifelong resident of the Charleston area, introduced Bodnar to Best of Crete. Bodnar, in turn, brought Maradei for her first meal. The three ate at the restaurant regularly.
"I've been eating here since I was 10," Coffman said. "On field trips, all the kids would go to Taco Bell. I'd be the one lonely kid at the Best of Crete."
"I eat here once or twice a week," Maradei said. "And if I'm in the mall for dinner, that's what I eat for dinner."
She'll have to find something else for now. After nearly 30 years in the Charleston Town Center, the Greek eatery closed Thursday.
"It's just time," co-owner Mike Birurakis said. "This is a very grueling business. My mom and brother put in 20 years. I've got 20 years."
He said the business was financially stable, but the restaurant's lease was up in the mall, making it a good time to close.
Birurakis' mother, Joann, and sons Steve and Greg started the business when the mall opened in 1983. Mike Birurakis joined the business later.
Town Center spokeswoman Lisa McCracken said she's sad to see the mall's only locally owned ethnic restaurant close.
"We're certainly very sad to see their departure from Charleston Town Center," McCracken said. "We wish Joann and Mike and the whole family all the best. They're great people that create a great dining experience, and we will all miss them."
A line of customers backed up from the restaurant to the mall's escalator during lunchtime Thursday as patrons came for their last Best of Crete meals.
Philip Walden of Charleston said he came to the restaurant two to four times a week. He came for the good food and also because of his friendship with Mike Birurakis.
"It's a bummer," Walden said. "I wish it wasn't closing."