This week, I was able to sit down with Lane Diedrichsen. Lane has owned and operated Pizza Barn, at the Sunrise Shopping Center, for about thirty-five years…and boy, does he have some great experiences! Following our interview, I, of course, had a gnarly craving for pizza. So, the next day, I decided to try my hand at making some pies for me and my daughters. I tossed the dough. I spread the sauce. I sprinkled that cheese all over the place. The pepperonis were flying like Frisbees! The result of my culinary feat?
Ok, ok, ok…from now on, I’ll leave the pizza making to the professionals as long as you all promise not to report me into Gordon Ramsey. Deal? Deal. Now, let’s talk about Lane.
Did you know that if Lane’s brother had been accepted into dentistry school, your kids may have never been able to ride the mechanical horse in the lobby while waiting for a slice? True story! Tell us about it, Lane! “Well, what got me into the pizza business was actually my twin brother. We grew up in the Reno area and our job, while attending the University of Nevada, was working at a pizza chain called Straw Hat. He was getting a BS in biology because he wanted to be a dentist, as my father was, and he wanted to take over my father’s practice when my he retired. But what happened was, when he got through with school he never got accepted into the actual dental school. It’s just hard to get in. So here he is, freshly graduated from UNR with a degree and he can’t get into dental school. He wasn’t sure what to do. So, in the meantime, he decided to shift towards a business degree while looking at becoming a shift supervisor at the pizza place he was working at. As this was happening (1976/77) in Fallon Nevada, there was a guy with a piece of property who wanted to put in a shopping center. And he wanted to put in a legitimate pizza restaurant because back in those days it was very rare to see chain restaurants in centers like that; everyone wanted mom and pop shops. So he went to everyone in the business within the Reno/Truckee area, asking them to put in a pizza restaurant. Nobody had any desire to go out to Fallon. Finally, our boss from Straw Hat drove out there. He was impressed with the area but he already owned three restaurants in Reno, Sparks, and Carson City and just couldn’t manage another, especially that far out of Reno…but he told him that if he couldn’t find somebody he might have someone who could run a successful pizza business. He took my brother out to lunch and talked to him about opening up his own place. So we all went out there and built the first Pizza Barn in Fallon, in 1978. It went very well! In the meantime, I was teaching 8th-grade history at Sparks Jr.High School for two years before they gave me a call and asked if I wanted to join the family business because we’re thinking about expanding! Fast forward about three years and they wanted to build another restaurant. They didn’t want to go to the Reno/Sparks area because it was too “big” and already had a lot going on. So, it came down to either Elko or the Minden/Gardnerville area. And sure enough at that time, the Sunrise Shopping Center was being planned; we caught wind of it and contacted them about putting in a pizza business. They told us they already had a commitment from Round Table Pizza who had already put down a $2,500 deposit. But when it finally came time to break ground on the shopping center, Round Table Pizza restaurants backed out to build a store in the Spanish Springs area of Sparks. So, they ate their deposit and the owners of the shopping center contacted us about moving in. We said yes and opened up in March of ’83.”
Yes, that’s close to 35 years of slinging pies. What’s Pizza Barns secret to their longevity? “if you make a really good pizza, you’re going to do really well. But we’ve always had this niche of being a family. We didn’t want to have any gaming in here. We didn’t really want to have a full liquor license; we wanted to be a family restaurant. And that’s what really helped us get established. If by word of mouth, people like you, the roots will get planted pretty deep. We’ve had to stay focused on what we wanted to be. We never wanted to be the “cheap” $5.99 pizza place; we leave that to someone else. We don’t deliver quick and speedy, no we take care of our families. That’s been our forte.”
That’s fantastic and much needed in our community! But I now had two questions for Lane. After running this business for so long, question one… do you still enjoy doing what you do? “I actually enjoy working in the restaurant; I love the hands-on thing. Yesterday, I was rolling dough and our beer deliverer came in and he said it was really weird seeing the owner rolling the dough. I don’t just want to be the owner who comes in and does the banking, and sits at a desk…I actually enjoy working on Saturday nights with the kids (who keep me young). In any type of business, if you’re a small business owner, to own it you’ve got to live it! People would come up to me, especially in the beginning, and tell me how they wish they could be their own boss; it must be great to go out and play golf every day if you wanted to. And it’s true, I could go out and play golf five days a week. But, if I did that, I wouldn’t have been here for thirty years! You have to keep your fingers on it. And as long as I love coming down here and working, I will.” Question two…do you even still like pizza? Aren’t you sick of it? “Friday is Tina (Lane’s wife) and mine’s pizza night! I’ve never gotten tired of pizza; I could eat pizza every day! And probably drink beer every day too.”
Chicago is famous for their pizza. New York is famous for its pizza. But what is it like being in the pizza game in good ol’ Elko, Nevada? ” I love how caring the people of Elko are. But there was a guy who opened up a business next-door to us in the shopping center. And I noticed that he had been here for like a year and a half, going on two years, but he still had the Idaho plates on his car. He and his wife never really committed to Elko. He would always just say he’s waiting to see what happens and if the business takes off. But he never made the total investment in Elko; he never moved here and made Elko his home. And they’re out of business now. If you don’t invest in the community, don’t be surprised if the community doesn’t invest in you.”
So, here’s a little behind the scenes Anthony Around Town fact. I always end my time with people by asking them if they have anything they would like to specifically share with you (the readers) that we haven’t already talked about. Most people say thank you to the Elko people or give one last encouragement. And Lane did give a big thank you to our area for its patronage of Pizza Barn for all of these years. However, Lane also had one more thing he and his wife would like to share with you all. “We love to go surfing with our golden retrievers! And we have gotten to the point where our dogs have become apart of our brand and apart of the Pizza Barn family!”
Gosh, I wish I had those smooth moves! Thank you for your time with us, Lane! Great guy, great pizza, great stories…great dogs!
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See you around!
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