Cook dinner’s Pizza: How a Teenage Dream Lasted 50-Plus Years

  • Cook dinner’s Pizza, situated in Wakarusa, Indiana, began small in 1971 and stays a seven-table eatery, however it’s change into deeply embedded in the neighborhood.
  • Co-owner Stan Cook dinner says the family-run restaurant has employed three generations of children to be taught the worth of onerous work.

By Tracy Morin

Brothers Stan and Steve Cook dinner have been fortunate to have an aunt and uncle within the meals biz—they owned an ice cream manufacturing plant and a soda fountain sit-down restaurant the place the boys discovered the ropes all through highschool, washing dishes, manning the grill and operating quick wholesale routes.

“It gave me the arrogance to suppose, ‘Possibly we might do that,’” Stan remembers. “There was an ice cream supply place in Wakarusa, Indiana, the constructing we’re in now, and I noticed how a lot enterprise they have been doing. Sooner or later, on a supply, I stated, ‘In case you ever need to promote this, name me,’ and so they referred to as per week later.”

The teenager brothers (Stan was 19; Steve, 17) began small in 1971, with their aunt and uncle contributing monetary assist and coolers for the 1,200-square-foot area, referred to as Cook dinner’s Pizza, the place they continue to be at present. After beginning with ice cream, milkshakes and a soda fountain, plus a jukebox and video video games, they added pizza a few years later. “We have been raised in an Italian neighborhood in Elkhart, and it received in our blood—plus, we realized promoting ice cream in February wasn’t going to work,” Stan says. “We didn’t have the cash initially, however then we received an oven to experiment with recipes.”

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Cook dinner’s Pizza / Fb

Although Stan admits the primary decade in enterprise was a feeling-out course of, Steve credit an early worker for getting folks within the door. “The primary woman we employed was 42 years outdated and knew everybody on the town,” he says. “So, when she ran the shop within the daytime, folks at all times got here in to see her. She actually drummed up enterprise at first.”

In the present day, Cook dinner’s Pizza, with solely seven tables, nonetheless thrives on carryout and supply, in addition to shut neighborhood ties in a tight-knit small city 100 miles east of Chicago. Stan, now 70, notes that they’ve employed three generations of children to be taught the worth of onerous work on the pizzeria, and he nonetheless loves seeing kids stroll over from the close by center faculty, clutching a couple of dollars to eat or drink earlier than an area ball sport.

the Cook brothers stand in front of a large red menu board and hold up a box with a pizza
Steve provides that the pizzeria prioritizes supporting these efforts, akin to youth basketball and soccer. “Our largest downside now could be handing off the baton to the subsequent technology,” Stan says. “Our children earn more money and work much less hours!”

For now, although, the brothers are nonetheless going robust at Cook dinner’s, a real neighborhood touchstone. “It labored out significantly better than we might have anticipated,” Steve admits. “We had a variety of trial and error and a variety of sleepless nights. We nonetheless lived at house after we began, however we needed to determine it out quick. And I’m nonetheless studying at present!”

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This text appeared within the Pizza Corridor of Fame part of the December 2022 subject of PMQ Pizza Media.