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Newest Pizza Pantry location features video games
Mar 21, 2013 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Pizza Pantry's ownership hopes its newest restaurant in Bloomington is the first of many.
"Eventually we'd like to open up another five or six stores, maybe as many as eight down the road," said Ron Hardesty, a partner in the Bloomington restaurant at 711 W. 17th St. "I'd kind of like to go to some of the smaller, lesser-served communities that the bigger chains don't get."
Bloomfield, Martinsville and Greencastle are on Pizza Pantry's radar. But the pizza chain, which has long-standing locations in Spencer and Ellettsville, first wants to build business in Bloomington.
It opened its restaurant in Bloomington in October. The location, which is about 2,000 square feet, currently has eight employees. Hardesty hopes to eventually boost its staffing to about 20 people, which would bring it in line with Pizza Pantry's other locations.
Pizza Pantry started tweaking the Bloomington restaurant soon after it opened. It hired Bloomington-based Mediaworks to help with its marketing. And it decided to heavily target families and children.
"It's been a tough market," Hardesty said. "Probably after the first 30 days it was open, we decided it needed some help."
The emphasis on children can be seen hanging on the wall of the Bloomington restaurant. Televisions and Microsoft XBox video-game system controllers adorn three Pizza Pantry booths so children can play while they wait for food to arrive or for their parents to be ready to leave after a meal.
Pizza Pantry installed the video games, which are free to use, in February as a trial. They've been well received, Hardesty said, and he wants to expand them to other booths in the restaurant and duplicate the setup elsewhere.
"What we're developing here, we're going to plan on duplicating at the other two stores," Hardesty said. "And that will be the model that we'll use going forward."
Those other two stores have been in Hardesty's family since the early 1970s. His father, Gary Hardesty, acquired the Spencer restaurant in 1971. He bought it from two partners, paying one of them with six Black Angus beef cows because he didn't have cash on hand, according to Ron Hardesty.
Gary Hardesty opened the Ellettsville restaurant a few years later. He still owns the first two locations, and he is 50-50 owner of the Bloomington restaurant with his son.
"Dad's 75 now, and we've been kicking around what we'd do with the restaurants when he got ready to retire or slow down," Ron Hardesty said. "I decided to take more of an active role with it. I've been behind the scenes, part of the corporation."
The father and son plan to split ownership of any future new restaurants they open.
It's a drastically different industry for Ron Hardesty, who owns his own independent insurance agency, Hardesty Insurance, in Ellettsville.
Hardesty is looking forward to the challenge of balancing his work in the new field with his insurance agency, he said. And he wants to duplicate Pizza Pantry memories from his own youth.
"When I was in high school, it was the hangout in Ellettsville," he said. "I played sports at the time, and I'd get done after a football game and walk into the restaurant. You couldn't get to the counter. It was wall-to-wall kids, just a good, friendly atmosphere. That's kind of what I want to recapture and bring to the stores again."
XBox tournament Saturday
The Bloomington Pizza Pantry will put its new Microsoft XBox video game systems to use Saturday with a video game tournament.
The tournament is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. at 711 W. 17th St. in Bloomington.
First place gets a $100 GameStop gift card. Second place gets a pizza party for eight people.
___ (c)2013 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) Visit the Herald-Times
(Bloomington, Ind.) at www.heraldtimesonline.com Distributed by MCT Information
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UPDATED 8:18 AM EST - May 25, 2013
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