This is the first in an occasional series of stories about the people we meet near ShaadZee Bakery Bistro in downtown Pleasant Hill.
If Stella Madadian's friend hadn't needed to use the bathroom, she might never have been reunited with her former high school sweetheart, Farhad Iranitalab.
The two had not seen each other for 28 years when they bumped into one another at a large business convention in Las Vegas in 2001.
The random meeting led to their marriage in 2002, and in 2009 they opened ShaadZee Bakery Bistro in downtown Pleasant Hill.
"It was fate," said Iranitalab. "That's why I believe we are here — fate."
In Persian, ShaadZee means "living happy" and that's what Madadian and Iranitalab are doing these days.
"Look at our location here," said Iranitalab, of the spacious corner restaurant across from the . "It's beautiful. This is the best place to be."
Their journey began when they were in high school together in Iran in the late 1960s. Iranitalab was two years older and the two were high school sweethearts.
However, in 1971, Iranitalab came to the United States to attend Oregon State. The two lost touch a few years later.
Iranitalab earned a master's degree in engineering. He briefly returned to Iran in 1978 for a four-month stint in the Army. However, when the Shah was overthrown, he quickly left the country and returned to the United States.
Iranitalab worked in a series of transportation engineer jobs for Santa Clara County, San Jose, Fairfield and Hayward over the next two decades.
He was also married for 26 years before divorcing in 2000. He has two grown children and two grandchildren.
Meanwhile, Madadian had her own life. She attended college in Iran and Santa Monica in the 1970s. She worked in the banking industry, where she held a vice president position.
She was also a champion athlete on Iran's women's basketball team and was the first female soccer player in that country.
She married in 1978 and officially divorced in 2002 after years of separation from her former husband. She also has two grown children.
The fates intervened in 2001 when both Madadian and Iranitalab were working in the garment industry. They both attended a convention in Las Vegas attended by thousands of industry professionals.
The convention was being held in four locations in that town. Madadian was at one venue and Iranitalab was at another.
However, while driving past the convention center, Madadian stopped there to let her friend use the restroom.
While standing by the front door, she saw Iranitalab and recognized him, despite having not seen him in 28 years.
"I have no idea how she recognized me. I had changed," said Iranitalab.
"I knew if I didn't talk to him then, I'd lose contact," said Madadian.
So, she tapped his arm, and they were reunited. The rest is, well, recent history.
The couple married the following year after Madadian's divorce became final.
In 2008, they decided to open a restaurant together. They looked in their hometown of Walnut Creek, but space was too expensive there.
The Coldwell Banker facility on Crescent Drive was available, so they decided to try a bistro and bakery there. They sunk more than $700,000 into remodeling and opened ShaadZee in March 2009.
"We love sweet things," said Iranitalab, "and there wasn't a bakery for pastries in the East Bay that we enjoyed."
The two didn't know much about the restaurant business, so they learned as they went along.
"If a person has a passion, then it doesn't matter how," said Iranitalab.
They have survived the country's economic downturn and say business is starting to pick up.
Both say they like to be busy and both like being entrepreneurs.
"We always like to have something going on," said Iranitalab.