Sheila and Dino’s Roidopoulos’ first glimpsed each other sipping wine at a wine festival in Greece. Sheila didn’t speak Greek, and Dino didn’t speak English, but they both spoke the international language of love.

After their chance encounter, Sheila returned to Lake Highlands, and Dino remained in Greece and began to study English.

They kept in touch through letters. A year later, they were married.

No, this isn’t a blurb from a romance novel. This is how the owners of Cheesecake Royale, 9016 Garland, actually met.

Twenty years later, Sheila and Dino find themselves gazing into each other’s eyes behind a cash register or in front of a hot oven.

Every day.

As business partners, they’re in each other’s company around the clock, but the magic in their marriage is still there.

There are other Lake Highlands couples who have found themselves in similar situations. They’ve merged the American entrepreneurship dream with their sweethearts.

Making Cakes

“He always says he’s the captain of the ship,” Sheila laughs.

Dino puts in 12 hours a day at Cheesecake Royale. Sheila works half-days and takes care of financial matters.

“She’s working for me,” says Dino, as Sheila rolls her eyes and smiles.

“If it’s even-Stephen, there’s going to be more hassles.”

The couple married 20 years ago after Dino moved to Lake Highlands from Greece. They’ve been working together for the past 10 years.

They launched several restaurants in the Dallas area, including Pizza, Etc., Cafe Europa and Kostas Cafe before opening Cheesecake Royale in 1989.

Sheila, otherwise known as Sheila Pope among 1971 Lake Highlands graduates, and her mother started making cheesecakes for the Roidopoulos’ restaurants during the late ’80s, Sheila says.

The cheesecakes were popular with customers, who frequently asked about the cheesecakes, Dino says.

The positive response came as no surprise to family members, who don’t use flour, preservatives or gelatin for the cakes, and only use fresh fruits, Dino says.

Cheesecake Royale was the first bakery in the country to develop the sampler, which is a cheesecake with eight differently flavored pieces in one cake, Dino says.

Morgan Fairchild, Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicklaus and Joan Rivers all have ordered cakes through Cheesecake Royale, Sheila says.

The couple sells cakes to department store catalogs, franchise grocery stores, restaurants and individuals, Dino says.

Their business success has a direct impact on their working relationship, Sheila says.

Sheila is more organized, but a procrastinator, she says, while Dino isn’t as organized, but he knows when and how to take chances.

“He’s a risk-taker,” she says.

When the couple first married, Sheila taught history for four years at Liberty Junior High, 10330 Lawler, and quit to raise their two kids, Gina, 14 and Mark, 12.

“I thought I’d stop working when I quit teaching,” Sheila says. But six years later, they were a business duo.

Both say they don’t talk about business at home, but when they’re at work, they’re strictly business.

“In this environment, you don’t have time to say: Please move this’ or ‘please do this,” explains Dino, using a hint of sweetness in his voice. “It’s more like: Do this, or move this,” he says sternly.

The Roidopoulos work with only four other people at their office/kitchen. When they first opened the business, they were working long hours side by side, but Sheila started working half-days once the business became more established.

“I love what I’m doing right now,” says Dino, despite the fact that he often works seven days a week.

Their business is slowly growing each day, Sheila says, and their marriage is growing right along with it.

Sheila says the fact that they like each other – not just love each other – is what has helped their business and marriage flourish.

“She’s putting up with me pretty good so far,” says Dino, as he catches Sheila’s eye, and they both burst out laughing.

Setting Their Priorities

Roger and Pam Bezzell say the key to maintaining a successful marriage and cohabitating in business is to make sure both partners are in it for the same reason.

In this case, the Bezzells incorporated themselves as Integrity Mortgage Corp. four years ago for one main reason: They wanted flexible work hours so they could spend more time with their three kids.

Several years ago, they decided to move the business from an office to their Lake Highlands home because as their children became teenagers, a funny thing happened: “Teen-agers don’t want much of your time,” Pam says.

So Pam and Roger wanted to be at home during those brief moments when the teens do want their time, Pam says.

Both Roger and Pam were born and raised in St. Louis and moved to Dallas years ago when Roger, who has worked in the mortgage industry for the past 20 years, was recruited by NationsBank.

After living in Dallas for several years, Roger was recruited by a Delaware bank to set up a mortgage company in West Palm Beach, Fla.

After the company was up and running in Florida, the Bezzells faced a crossroad.

Return to St. Louis? Go back to Dallas? Or stay in West Palm Beach?

The kids opted for Dallas, and most of the business contacts were in Dallas, along with a healthy economy, so Dallas it was, Roger says.

And before long, the couple found themselves working together hand in hand.

Roger taught Pam the business while she took finance and mortgage college classes on the side.

“From the beginning, there needs to be an honest evaluation of each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Roger says.

Pam, who says she isn’t organized, is extremely outgoing and is the people person in the business, Roger says.

“I tend to be more on the paper side,” Roger says.

After being the only parent at home raising and teaching the kids for the past 20 years, Pam says she had serious reservations about working at home with her husband.

“I was concerned about him coming into my business,” Pam says. “I didn’t know what would happen.”

But things worked out perfectly, and she attributes their success to the simple fact that they like each other and are best friends.

The Bezzells, who have been married 23 years, met through mutual friends and hit it off as friends immediately.

“I’ve always looked at the fact that I really liked Roger,” Pam says. “We were friends having fun.”

(Pam does admit she thought he was cute when she first met Roger, who was playing baseball in a semi-pro league.)

“It was probably a six-month process before he asked if I wanted to go out on a date,” Pam says. “And I was like, well, I guess so.”

Little did they know that first date would lead to marriage and then to Integrity Mortgage Company.

Pam and Roger both say they love what they’re doing and believe that attitude rubs off on their customers.

“I wouldn’t want to do this without Roger, though,” Pam says as Roger nods in agreement.

A Cleaner Couple

“I was tired of wearing a coat and tie and driving a Benz and playing the yuppie game,” says Bill Flynn, who worked for an information management company for 15 years.

“You come home, and your kids don’t know you.”

Bill and his wife, Cheri, had several friends in the cleaning business, so he quit his corporate job, worked with his friends for six months to learn the ropes, and then opened their own place five years ago.

Our Cleaner World, 6611 Abrams, is a cleaning business that focuses on environment-friendly products and “recycling everything we can get our hands onto,” Bill says.

The business also sells various earth-friendly products through a catalog, which is a new addition to the business, Bill says.

The couple met 26 years ago at a high school fair day in Dallas when Cheri was 14, and Bill was 17.

“I pursued him, and I wasn’t going to let him go,” Cheri giggles.

Seven years later, they married. But working together was kind of a surprise, they say.

After they married, Cheri taught art at the middle school and high school levels in Dallas. But after Bill quit his corporate job, the couple wanted to change their lifestyle, Bill says.

Their three kids are their priority, Cheri says, and they decided that opening a small business together would give them extra time to be with them, Cheri says.

They both agree that when they first opened the business, times were tough because they started from ground zero, Bill says.

“It was a struggle, and that struggle follows you home,” Bill says.

“We never stopped, though, after a day, and thought: You’re really bugging the hell out of me,” Bill says.

The couple has different responsibilities in the business, which both say makes a huge difference.

“She’s money, and I’m everything else,” Bill says.

The first three years, they worked together day and night. But her workload decreased as the business became established, and Cheri decided to take a part-time job teaching art at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School. Now, she stops by the store less frequently, but often takes work home with her.

They both agree that to go into business together, couples must have different skills, have their own hobbies, must be very good friends and must have separate responsibilities within the business.

“I don’t think just anybody who’s married can go into business together,” Bill says.

“I think working together makes you stronger. It pushes you way out on the edge, where you’re not comfortable. It makes you realize how much crap you can take before you blow up – and I haven’t blown up.”