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Mayville pizzeria fought off chain to endure as a town institution

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MAYVILLE, N.D. — New restaurant owners can take a “pizza” advice from the Pizza Shop: make everything yourself, and you might just stick around for 50 years.

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“Whenever people ask ‘What’s so different?’ the only thing I can come up with is that we make everything from scratch,” said Mary Stocking, 49, who owns the restaurant with her husband Tim, 53.

The restaurant, started in 1964 by Mary Stocking’s parents, Keith and Marge Spies, is entering its 50th year of business.

Pizza Shop has undergone multiple renovations because of flood damage in 1979 and 2009, as well as minor repairs in 2010. But despite closures and competition from incoming chains, business has stayed steady for half a century.

On Monday, the phone rang almost continuously after the restaurant opened at 4 p.m.

“People just keep coming in,” Mary Stocking said.

Mayville staple

When Pizza Shop first opened in Mayville, a town of about 2,000, there was doubt that it would be able to stay in business. Marge Spies said that when she was preparing to open the restaurant, people told her it wouldn’t work because pizza wasn’t a “real food,” but rather just a snack.

Yet 50 years later, the building — originally the Mayville State University Science Building — has been relocated to 2nd Avenue Southwest right off of state Highway 200, which runs through the center of town. The building, which displays “Pizza Shop” in red neon capital letters on separate white rectangles, has the vintage look of an old bowling alley or drive-in movie theater.

In the 1970s, the Spies added onto the building and started a convenience store, but the space now holds Tommy’s Bar, which the Stockings opened a year or so after purchasing the business in 2003.

Mary Stocking said she hasn’t changed much from her parent’s original restaurant, saying there was no reason to reinvent the wheel for a business that was succeeding. Over the years she has added a few different pizzas, hamburgers, and fried pickles, but that’s about it.

50 years of fresh

Pizza Shop’s thin, dense crust and spice recipe for its sauce are both recipes of Keith Spies, who started the tradition of fresh ingredients and preparation.

Mary Stocking said in addition to making everything from scratch, the ingredients are also prepared fresh every day. The Pizza Shop staff makes the dough, grinds cheese from the block, adds spices to the ground beef and sausage and slices all the vegetables each morning.

Mary Stocking said Pizza Shop’s two most popular pizzas are “the Chef,” which has Canadian bacon, pepperoni, ground beef, green onions, green peppers, mushrooms and onions, and “Tommy’s” which has pepperoni, sausage, ground beef and Canadian bacon.

The restaurant’s homemade fare has not only survived numerous floods, but it also weathered the introduction of a Pizza Hut in the early 1980s.

Mary Stocking said the competition caused quite a headache for her mother, but the franchise closed within a decade, leaving Pizza Shop to endure to the next generation.

Tom Stocking said he and his wife plan on running Pizza Shop until they can retire, swapping the pizza ovens for rocking chairs.

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