Keith (center) and LuAnn Miller (right) pose for a family portrait with daughter Ashley in front of their Second Street Pizza restaurant in Byron. The business opened in 2009 and will close next month. Photos by David Richards
By David Richards
It's a Minnesota thing.
Folks in these parts bring bars, not baked goods, to family gatherings. They make hot dishes, not casseroles, for work luncheons, and the pizza, if it's authentic southern Minnesota style, is square with thin crust.
That kind of pizza has been at the forefront of Byron's Second Street Pizza since it opened in the summer of 2009 and will continue to be until it closes for good following business hours on Nov. 24.
The owners, longtime restaurateurs Keith and LuAnn Miller, who run the restaurant with daughter Ashley, are moving out of state to be closer to grandchildren in Wisconsin.
Ashley, the Miller's youngest daughter, will stay in Byron and pursue other interests.
"It's bittersweet," Ashley said of the closing. "We're sad to go, but excited to move on."
Second Street Pizza was just the latest in a long line of Byron Pizza places in that building on 518 Second Street NW.
It was once Pizza Coop and Bear Country Pizza and Pizza Pit with the black and white racing-esque tile that's still there and Rock and Roll Pizza.
The Millers, who have been married 37 years, bought it after they sold their Blooming Prairie pizza place to their niece and nephew.
Second Street Pizza was one of many businesses the Millers have owned over the years, with all but one being successful.
"We'd go into a business that was closed or was closing, build it up and then find a buyer," LuAnn said.
They've owned a tavern and liquor stores, both on and off sale, and a hardware store that didn't do so well.
In 1989, they entered into the world of pizza, met a pizza-supply distributor on a tip from their lawyer who put them in contact with a family member who owned a pizza business himself.
From there, it was a matter of getting quality ingredients and learning to make pizza, mostly the thin crust kind that's cut into squares.
After all, it was that same type of pizza LuAnn knew when she worked at George's Pizza at age 15 in Austin.
"That's what we grew up with," she said.
The Blooming Prairie business, Pizza Cellar, opened in 1989.
"It was our favorite thing to do, go out for pizza, and there was no evening restaurant there at the time," Keith said.
Ten years later, they were in business in Byron.
While Second Street Pizza never took off the way the Millers had hoped, it was successful and has enjoyed a fairly strong following from Byron, its outlying areas and on into Rochester.
"We have met some nice people and have loyal customers," LuAnn said.
LuAnn added that it all starts with quality ingredients, such as high-grade cheese that comes in five-pound bricks they slice themselves.
The Millers buy their ingredients from commercial distributors, so even if they wanted to make a Second Street pizza out of their home in Wisconsin, they couldn't because the ingredients aren't available in grocery stores.
"Our quality comes in big cases and big bags," LuAnn said.
As for what's next for the Second Street Pizza building, the Millers aren't sure.
For months, they've tried to sell the business as a pizza restaurant, and have even intended to stay on for a few months to show potential new owners the ropes.
But the Millers have yet to find a buyer and figure they will likely sell off the equipment by itself and then sell the building separate for someone to open as a different type of business.
And while LuAnn, Keith and family may be moving on from pizza, they're not sick of it. They still eat their own pizza a few times a week.
"We really don't eat other pizza, just our own," Ashley said.
In the meantime, Second Street Pizza is still open, Tuesday through Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. through Nov. 24, square slices and all.
"We do have a few customers who request that we cut it in pie shapes," LuAnn said.