Pizza with a twist

Posted: Wednesday, January 03, 2001

The concept of take-and-bake pizza may be new to Kenai Peninsula residents, but according to Jim and Sue Nelson, its catching on.

The Nelsons opened Papa Murphy's, a restaurant specializing in the concept, in Soldotna Dec. 6.

"It's a very popular idea. It is all about convenience," Jim Nelson said.

Customers of the new store can either walk in or call in to have a fresh pizza created for them within minutes. The pizza is sold unbaked and the customer takes the meal home and cooks it to their own specifications.

The Nelsons recently moved from Anchorage to property they own in Sterling. While Jim has experience in the food service business, Sue is a former entertainer from Canada.

"We just got tired of coming down on weekends and then having to go back," Jim said.

So the couple moved and set up the pizza business because they both enjoy the product and the idea of the franchise.

"Everyone we talked to said 'go for it'," Sue said.

After finding a spot and preparing to move in, the Nelsons were approached by Odie Pack, owner of Odie's restaurant. She offered them the space she was in because she was planning to close her business due to health problems. (See related story, this page).

So the couple took Pack up on the offer for the 1,600-square-foot space and opened soon after.

"We are just tickled to death to be here," Jim said. "We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't love the pizza."

Papa Murphy's offers customers 16 different options in pizzas, calzones and bread sticks. There are more than 20 pizza toppings, including pesto, green olives and anchovies. The business features a grilled chicken and bacon stuffed pizza and the Chicago-style stuffed pizza as their specialities.

The restaurant employs 16 area residents, with ages ranging from 17 to those in their 60s.

"We are all a team," Sue said, adding that many of the female employees hug her before going home at night.

While many pizza options line the walls, Sue said she has made personalized pizzas and is up for any challenge.

"We make whatever people want," she said.

While the business is still new and small, the Nelsons have plans in the works, including using the existing pickup window for customers who want to call up and drive by. Also, they plan to bring in salad options, lasagna and cookie dough that would be purchased raw, taken home and baked like the pizzas.

Because the restaurant serves only prepared pizzas that are not baked, food stamps are accepted.

But Jim said he enjoys the take and bake idea so much, baking is not even an option.

"We don't want to cook it for them, even if we had an oven," he said.

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