Steve’s changes hands; Alex Davis is taking over the Austin business his parents built into a staple
Published 11:02 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Alex Davis grew up at Steve’s Pizza watching his parents run the restaurant and make it a community staple. Now he will take on the challenge of managing the well-known restaurant.
“I grew up here, Steve’s Pizza is more of a home to me than my home,” Alex said. “I think the delivery guys and the waitresses and the cooks, they helped raise me. So I feel comfortable here, and I love people, I love the people I work with and the customers. And to serve them, that’s what it’s about.”
Steve, 68, and Angie, 62, Davis started the business in 1978 when they bought The House of Pizza, which was located where the current Mower County Jail and Justice Center is located downtown. They worked there for 32 years before moving to 421 N. Main St. when the jail was built. After about 38 years in the pizza and restaurant business, the couple is ready to slow down.
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“Angie and I are somewhat retired,” Steve said. “We’ll be down here … but Alex is the one that’s going to be in charge and we can sort of step back and enjoy some retirement possibly, maybe do some traveling,” Steve said. “But more than anything else, I just like to stay home.”
The business was transferred to Alex in the beginning of February. Although there were many offers from outside buyers to take over the business, Steve was happy to have his son take over. He was glad to keep the business in the family and hand it to someone who is experienced and knows what it takes to run a restaurant.
“I’m positive he will do a good job,” Steve said.
He explained though many people start with a “dream to own their own restaurant,” that dream can turn into a nightmare fast if they don’t realize just how much time and work the business requires. But Alex, 41, has been around the business all his life and started working there around 13 , so he already understands the time and work requirements.
“It feels good, you know I’ve worked with [my parents], and they’ve taught me everything they know and they know a lot about the pizza business,” Alex said. “So I’ve taken that and combined it with the best of everybody that’s worked here and everything they know, and I’ve combined it with their knowledge, and my experience and their experience.”
Steve said since his son has been involved in the business for a long time, so him taking the reins it was a sort of natural thing to occur.
“We felt that Alex has been with us for so long and he knew every aspect of the business,” Steve said.
Steve and Angie don’t plan to go too far, though. Aside from the occasional trip, Steve said they will stay in Austin and will likely continue to work at a more relaxed pace at the restaurant.
“Hopefully we will still be around, I love Austin we’re not going to move away or go South,” he said.
Alex invited his parents back anytime they want, whether to help out, visit, or just see customers and people.
“They can come back whenever they want, I actually want them here,” he said. “I think people come in to see Angie and Steve, so I think the more they’re here the better it is.”
Alex doesn’t plan to make any drastic changes with his new title as the business’ manager, and doesn’t foresee any recipes or other things changing. He does plan to continue striving to make great food and provide good customer service.
“We’re about customer service, that’s what it’s about in the end,” Alex said. “It’s like the one thing we can do better than anybody, because we are a Mom and Pop place, it’s not a chain, we can have the best customer service.”
“So people come for celebrations, maybe a wake, maybe their first date or their 50 year anniversary,” he continued. “And in each one of those cases we treat them with respect, and the best that we possibly can.”
While many people think Steve’s is about the good food and customer service, Alex said the biggest thing is the memories that are made. He hopes to continue managing the business his parents built up for many years to come.
As for Steve and Angie? They are simply enjoying the novelty of not having to get up in the morning and go straight to the business.
“That’s a nice change,” Steve said. “Nothing permanent or demanding every day.”
Over the years, Steve and Angie have made many friendships and gotten involved in the community by sponsoring youth sports, being involved in the downtown flower basket program, contributing to programs at schools such as the music or robotics, and more. Steve said it’s always fun to add team photos to the store’s “photo album.” He anticipates Alex to continue being involved in the community.
Steve said though he and his wife are leaving with mixed emotions, he is confident in his son’s abilities. Alex handled much of the responsibilities during the store’s transition to Main Street, and Steve said his son laid much of the groundwork. He also commented on Alex’s meticulous nature when it comes to food preparation.
“He sometimes got on me because he didn’t feel my pizzas were round enough,” Steve laughed.
But the thing Steve and Angie will miss the most is the people, whether it be new customers, regulars, or returning former employees. Steve said people they hired for their first job out of high school come back, some doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers and others. He said they have hired former employee’s children and even some grandchildren.
“That’s the part that Angie and I enjoyed the most, is the people of Austin,” Steve said. “And they’ve been very loyal and generous to us with our business, and we’ve been very appreciative of that.”