Dick's Pizza is closed
Dick's Pizza and Grill, an institution in West Bend's independent restaurant community, has closed.
"It's just gotten to the point where it's not worth it; I'm ready to get out," says owner Earl Richter, who told his 30 employees Thursday afternoon and closed his doors that night.
Richter has owned the Italian restaurant at the corner of 18th Avenue and Highway 33 for the last seven years, although Dick's Pizza has a long history in the community.
"When I was little, we used to go there very late and I would always order the spaghetti and fall asleep. I told my parents it was the spaghetti that would make me sleepy," says Jodi Janisse who also remembers the 25-cent sundaes.
"That was our promotion for our 25th anniversary," says former owner Dave Wolf. "We supported a lot of teams like the water ski team and little league teams."
Bill Laufer grew up on 7th Avenue and said it was always a big treat on Sunday nights to go down to Dick's and get a pizza.
"They were originally located downtown and then they moved to the far side of town," he says. "Back in the day people were like, why are they moving way out there?"
The original Dick's Pizza dates to back 1958 when Dick Turnquist opened at 315 N. Main St., where Tastings Food & Spirit's is currently located. "In 1977 Turnquist started building the new restaurant here on 18th Avenue but he was killed in a car crash three weeks before even opening," says Richter.
An employee at the restaurant, Paul Schloemer became the new owner and ran the business for three years before Dave Wolf bought the pizza place in March 1980. Twenty years later, in December 2003, Richter took over.
"We really grew the sales within the first three or four years," says Richter. "My sales were probably 50 percent higher than anything they'd ever done but all of a sudden one restaurant after another started opening in this town," he says, claiming there are just too many eating places for West Bend to support.
Richter rattled off a list of local restaurants that have recently met their demise, including Ponderosa, Charcoal Grill, 50 States, Schultz's Whitetail Inn, Lisa's Café and Linden Inn. Places bought and sold include the Mousetrap, formerly Blue Herron on the east end of Highway 33, Bagg End, Long Branch Saloon and The Grille.
"West Bend has way too many restaurants," says Richter. "I've never seen a town with this many restaurants versus the population."
Several factors led to Richter's decision to close, including gas prices, the economy, and additional competition.
"It kicked you a little bit but it wasn't anything you couldn't survive, we just weren't as profitable," he says, noting there have been 24 new restaurants opened in West Bend the last few years.
Aside from more choices, Richter says the increase in gas prices hurt him.
"We were flat with profits last year, but when gas hit $4 a gallon our business dropped 20 percent just like that," he says. He also blames the rumor about a Walgreen buying up his corner at 18th Avenue.
"That hurt me with all the talk and all the rumors and it destroyed my gift certificate sales last year, especially during Christmas."
Richter confirmed the national drug store chain was looking at buying and building on the northeast corner but claims there was never an offer on the table.
In January First Weber Real Estate agent Bink Steinbach said a Chicago developer pulled their offer claiming the redevelopment of the site "was getting too expensive." Steinbach, the former owner of the Binkery, was one of three properties along with Dick's Pizza that would have been sold for the development.
Richter makes it clear he is simply closing the restaurant.
"I'm not going bankrupt or anything. I thought about selling but there's not a lot of interest right now."
Richter and a partner own the building, which will be for sale shortly. An auction is set for early August.
Dicks Pizza went down hill after Earl became the owner. The food was not good and they changed the pizza recipe. He didnt want to or didnt have the extra money to keep it like it was. It needed a huge inside makeover and the food was sooo below the old standards. I blame him for not having his whole heart in it. Gas prices and the economy would not have bothered the place, had he gave people a reason to keep coming in.
We've been going to Dick's for years and would continue to go- not because it was the best food but because we practically grew up there. For years, West Bend had very few options in terms of dining out. It's true they were greasy but is that so wrong? West Bend does NOT have too many restraunts. The town finally has competition to make it good!! I'm sorry to see Dick's go but just as happy to see places like Tomaso's and Sal's come into the community.
As a + 20 year resident of West Bend, they closed because their very greasy pizza was terrible!
This is sad news. I really think that there isn't a lot of restaurants in West Bend for the size. People like a variety to choose from. I was gioing to take my aunts there for the first time, and it was closed. How are people suppose to take family from out of twon out for a nice meal, if all the places are closing. My family doesn't live in West Bend, so I wanted to take them somewhere they don't get where they live. We ended up going to Bullafo Wild Wings. I also believe that West Bend needs more places that the average american can afford with gas being the way it is.
Dick's Pizza is famous and very well known in West Bend and Washington county for that matter. This is sad news for West Bend.
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