OTTAWA – With a local favorite pizza sauce recipe that hasn’t changed since 1972 when it first opened its doors, The Pizzeria, has been a long time staple for fresh baked pizza in Putnam County. Ownership has been with the Shafer family since 1981 and conclusively be seeing change in the 2022 New Year. But it’s not the sauce that’s changing.

“Dad and Brent bought The Pizzeria when they were 17 and 19, they were pretty young,” next generation owner Jordan Shafer said of his father and uncle.

After 40 years of being in the pizza business together, brothers Curtis and Brent Shafer retired on New Year’s Day followed by an open house to allow the opportunity to reminisce with employees from the past, customers, friends and family. Longtime customers got to say thank you and farewell to Curtis and Brent Shafer, as retirement becomes their next venture, the next generation steps in to continue The Pizzeria dynasty.

Cindy Buckland, commented on their media post, “Congratulations on retirement. Wishing you both the best. Thanks for all you did for the communities your business is involved in. Excited for the next generation!”

For the past three years the succession to run the 50 yearlong pizza legacy in Putnam County, brothers Jordan and Alex Shafer, sons of Curtis Shafer, and cousin Zach Shafer, son of Brent Shafer, prepared to become second generation owners.

Brent Shafer worked at the Columbus Grove location for three years before he bought the location from Cartwright in 1981, who went on to other business ventures. It wasn’t long until Curtis was recruited by his older brother and the two would grow the franchise into the family business it is today.

“I don’t think they (Curtis and Brent) quite visioned it would turn into five stores across Putnam County, but it did,” Jordan Shafer commented.

Orginated by the late Tom Cartwright in 1972, Columbus Grove was the only place at the time to obtain a slice of pizza, compared to the present influx of pizza restaurants throughout Putnam County present day.

Growing from Columbus Grove, the Shafer brothers opened the subsequent locations as their pizza and staff grew; Ottawa (1987), Pandora (1991), Leipsic (2000), and finally Kalida (2007), the five restaurants will continue to be run by longtime staff and stone deck ovens.

Taking on his father’s business alongside his brother and cousin, Jordan worked many hours beginning in the days of summer entering his freshman year at Columbus Grove, “mainly doing order taking, working the deep fryer, and rolling out dough on the weekend nights then making buckets of pizza sauce and mixing up pizza dough during preparation times,” he explained.

“Growing up in Columbus Grove and my Dad having the popular pizza joint in town was, like, the coolest thing! Back then there were arcade games, pinball, a jukebox, etc. in our dining room. Local teenagers would (and still do today) pack the dining room after Bulldog football and basketball games,” Jordan shared memories of the long running family restaurant, adding “Cheese-Stuffed Breadsticks with that Pizzeria sauce for dipping was the go-to Friday night snack everyone looked forward to.”

“Pizza wasn’t really that popular in this area yet, it existed but it wasn’t like it is now.”

The original Pizzeria was a very small shop at the time in Columbus Grove, that used to be located in the building that succumbed to the fire, but fortunately it was already located in its now present location at 112 N High St before the fire took place.

“I took as many business classes as my schedule would allow at CGHS with the goal in mind of taking over the family business one day,” Jordan explained, “Down deep, it was always the goal.”

After branching out following seven years managing the pizza store, Jordan explored another career path, but was back a couple years later in 2018.

“I came home to The Pizzeria. The transition of slowly taking on more responsibility for my Dad and Uncle Brent started shortly after, leading up to their retirement.”

Planning to keep with tradition and square cut pizza, the Shafer’s have been retaining more than just loyal customers over the years.

“We’re blessed to have a really good staff. A lot of our managers have been with us for 20 plus years. Our manager in our store in Leipsic, we opened in August of 2000, he is our original manager from when we opened our doors,” Jordan shared.

From hosting local school team meals to shout outs of encouragement to upcoming games on their Facebook page, The Pizzeria continues keeping involved with the community. With a weekly football draft pick through the month of March, The Pizzeria Pick’em, a social media platformed game where customers can comment their projected winners of local High School football, college, and NFL games for weekly fun rivalry and a gift certificate to the winner. In addition, donating pizza boxes to Ottawa Elementary School, 5th and 6th grade science classes, who found a way to utilize the pizza boxes to construct solar ovens to bake s’mores last year.

“We are so blessed to live and work in Putnam County. We always have great people working with us from our full-time managers to our part time employees. They are awesome! We could not run this business without them,” Jordan expressed.

The first generation owners may have moved on, but they will always have a “pizza” Putnam County history.