WAKARUSA – A staple of childhood experience and a business icon in the community gets new recognition on its 50th anniversary.
Cook’s Pizza was named Business of the Year by the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of kids have fond memories of walking to Cook’s to buy ice cream,” said Deb Shively, executive secretary of the Wakarusa Chamber. “With college being in Wakarusa, it’s like a rite of passage when you have the independence to walk to Cook’s and order pizza or milkshakes. I don’t know where we’d be without them. Everyone loves Cook’s and their pizza has a unique taste, you may even crave it once in a while.
Proof of the pizzeria’s value to the community is evident in the comments on a Facebook post celebrating its 50th anniversary. Cook turned 50 in August.
Stan and Steve Cook started their business careers in high school selling ice cream. The brothers were at school in Concord, working in their aunt and uncle’s main street store, Wray’s Ice Cream in Elkhart. They were delivering ice cream to the old L&M Dairy which had only been open a few months and the owners weren’t sure how to keep it open, Stan said.
“They said, ‘Do you want to buy this place? And we’ve been here ever since, Steve said simply.
There wasn’t much to buy, mostly materials, and for recent high school graduates, that was a good thing.
“They made it really reasonable to start,” Stan said. “We started very small. Simple sandwiches, no deep fryers, no pizza, a few breads, crackers, 12 flavors of ice cream.
A year later, they started selling pizzas.
Over the years, the company has seen a wide variety of downtown events. A fire ripped through the hallway about 25 years ago, President Barack Obama’s motorcade passed their store, they survived the recession and COVID, and they won Wakarusa’s Business of the Year again in 2003.
“A lot of things have happened in the meantime,” Steve said. “We’ve had a lot more stories and seen some pretty crazy stuff.”
He recounted that during their early years of business ownership, Stan worked for the police department and caught someone breaking into the nearby store with a crowbar. Just a few months ago, Steve had to perform CPR on a man who had passed out. Souvenirs are a big part of what makes Cook’s Pizza such an asset to the town.
The building was originally a First National Bank which closed during the Great Depression. Later, Doc Abel had his doctor’s office in the building, and the two brothers even had their appointments there. Steve met his wife there, as they shared a doctor.
“I have a family photo of my wife having a medical at six months, and it’s right next to where our oven would be.”
A valued member of the community and the chamber, executive secretary of the Wakarusa chamber
The chamber’s Shively said many teenagers had worked there over the years and the pizzeria had supported sports teams and done a lot for the town.
“To have a vibrant downtown, you have to have a reason to go there, and Cook’s is a vibrant business in Wakarusa,” she said of the committee’s decision to present the business award. of the year at Cook’s Pizza. “We hope they think it’s an honor. It is a time when our members celebrate them. Basically, it’s a night of appreciating someone and celebrating the year before. We look at the year and think who stood out as giving value.
The annual Wakarusa Chamber Appreciation Dinner is Monday. They will also honor an Educator of the Year and a Citizen of the Year, which are surprises.
“It’s a great honor because after attending several of these banquets, it never occurred to me that maybe Steve and I would be center stage,” Stan said. “It’s great that the community is rolling out the red carpet to honor us, and it’s very much appreciated.”