For the past 42 years, Shakespeare’s Pizza has been an icon in downtown Columbia. That tradition with continue at the corner of Ninth and Elm streets for the next 50. The plans for the new development that will house Shakespeare’s Pizza were released last month.
The Rader family, who owns the property, decided to invest in a six-story development, which will include retail, office space and apartments. The Odle family, who has developed the Brookside properties around Columbia, were partnered with the Rader family to build and manage the new building.
Shakespeare’s owner Kurt Mirtsching said they approached him to offer him space in the new building, which he said lies at “probably one of the best corners this side of Kansas City or St. Louis.” He signed a 10-year lease with them that includes eight five-year extensions.
“The Odle family recognized the value of having Shakespeare’s at the corner of Ninth and Elm, and it’s very flattering that they think that much of us,” Mirtsching said. “They wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to stay as long as we wanted.”
Mirtsching said the new restaurant will open Aug. 1, 2016. Customers will notice many new features in the restaurant, which will be 2,000 square feet bigger than the original location. The bar will also be bigger, and there will be two party rooms in the facility.
“One of our dining rooms is going to have the wall that faces Ninth Street (that) is going be a large glass garage door, so when it’s cold or hot out it will be just a great big window, but when the weather cooperates we will be able to raise that garage door and the dining room will open out onto the sidewalk cafe,” Mirtsching said. “It’s going to be a really nice space to sit down and enjoy a beverage and a pizza.”
However, the new restaurant will still have the same nostalgic feel as the original.
“The dining rooms are going to be pretty much the same, but there are going to be more of them,” Mirtsching said. “It’s going to be the same bricks and the same ceiling in much of it.”
Although he values the integrity of the original building, Mirtsching thinks the development will be good for the restaurant overall.
“The old building was very nostalgic and very cool because of the old bricks and it was a neat old building, but it was just a box that Shakespeare’s was in,” Mirtsching said. “Shakespeare’s is more than a just box — it’s the people, the pizza, the customers, it’s all of that.”
Another element that Mirtsching and the downtown Shakespeare’s general manager, Toby Epstein, said they are looking forward to is an improvement in the layout of the space, especially the kitchen. The original space was “patched together” over time and had a layout that did not make sense, Epstein said.
“We’d have employees dragging 35 to 40 pounds of dough 75 feet,” Epstein said, noting that was only one of many examples of how poorly set up the area was. “We had one kitchen downstairs and one upstairs, both pumping out hundreds of pizzas.”
Now, the kitchens will be five feet apart, he said. Mirtsching said the new kitchens will make operations easier, quicker and less costly.
The development that will become the home for Shakespeare’s also followed voluntary guidelines set by the Community Improvement District, which include “promoting a lively and active neighborhood both day and night; blending a campus atmosphere with a downtown atmosphere; and providing a pedestrian-friendly environment,” McAlester Park, LLC spokesman Jack Cardetti said.
Many locals have noted the importance of keeping the treasured pizza shop at its original location, including Cardetti.
“Keeping this iconic Columbia institution at the corner of Ninth and Elm streets for generations to come is good for our town and a critical anchor of this truly mixed-use development,” Cardetti said in an email.
For now, Shakespeare’s, or “Tempspeare’s” as their website states, is a block away from the permanent location, at 220 S. Eighth St. Although it will be a year before they are in the new development, Mirtsching said that in the end, customers will be able to follow a “yellow brick road” back to its home.
“You will just have to come see,” Mirtsching said.