Saturday, October 31, 2009

Papa Tom's

Published in November 2009 in the Post Register.
There are a lot of papas in eastern Idaho and a lot of Toms, but there’s only one Papa Tom’s.

The popular pizza restaurant has a complicated business genealogy, but its owners have a simple approach – make good pizza and sell it for a reasonable price.

It’s a family business, originally started by Tom Mueller (he’s “Papa) and now run by son Tim, Tim’s brother, Mike, and other members of the extended family. Tom Mueller’s business roots in Idaho Falls go back to 1964 and his restaurants extend back nearly as far. Papa Tom’s opened in 1983, a remnant of a couple of places old-timers will remember well – the Gaslamp and the Gay 90s.

Those were part of a pizza chain out of Moscow that eventually disappeared, but Tom Mueller took the sauce recipe – it has just a little kick to it – and opened Papa Tom’s.

“We’re pretty old school still,” says Tim Mueller. That includes the old slate-lined pizza ovens that date back to the 1970s. “A lot of people use conveyors now.”

Pizza is still a good business, even though profit margins have tightened some. Cheese prices are all over the place and have been known to spike by 50 cents a pound in just a few months. It may not seem like much, but when you go through 1,300 pounds of cheese a week, that’s a lot of, um, dough.

There’s a pool table in the corner that gets some play, but Papa Tom’s is mostly a family joint where the grandkids of the restaurant’s longtime customers are beginning a third generation of tradition. A lot of competitors have come and gone in the meantime.

“We just want people to be comfortable when they come in,” Mueller says.

The menu includes sandwiches and a wide pizza variety, but you’re not going to get exotic California-style wimpy pizzas at Papa Tom’s, or Chicago-style deep dish for that matter. This is straight-ahead, thin crust pizza that bubbles when they bake it and crunches on the cutting board. It’s been that way for more than a quarter-century now.

1 comment:

  1. I have Mr. Tom Meuller's old Pontiac station wagon which he bought new in 1972. She now resides half way around the world in Perth, Western Australia. I wonder if Mr. Meuller delivered Pizzas in her.