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“The pizza recipe will stay the same,” said Kathy Cook, new owner of M&K’s Pizza Hub in Kenmare, with her husband Mark.
The transition will officially take place July 1st, when the Cooks assume operation of the popular restaurant from Roger and Shelly Ness. Roger launched the Pizza Hub in February 1979 with a new building, one pizza oven, two microwaves, a deep fat fryer and a secret recipe for his trademark pizzas.
“We got the recipe when we bought the place,” Mark said. “The pizzas are what made this place.”
The Cooks intend to keep the same menu and hours at their new business, as well as the Thursday night large-for-a-medium-charge pizza special. Most of the staff plan to stay, although local customers will notice a few new faces. “Some of our family is going to work here as well,” said Kathy.
Roger and Shelly will serve their last pizzas today and host a Customer Appreciate Picnic in the Kenmare city park on Thursday, June 30th, from 5 to 7:30 pm.
The restaurant itself is scheduled to be closed Thursday for painting and flooring work by the Cooks. Mark laughed as he talked about the progress they hoped to make, especially with new flooring planned for the entryway, bathrooms, and counter area. “It depends on how many ‘volunteers’ we get,” he said.
“Everybody is telling us, ‘Congratulations on your new business,’” added Kathy. “I’m saying, ‘Hey, come and help us paint!’”
Business will resume on Friday, July 1st, with the Cooks behind the counter. The restaurant will be closed as usual for the July 4th holiday, although the paintbrushes are likely to be in use again that day.
Food service experience
The Cooks, who farm northeast of Kenmare, have years of experience in food service, including stints at
“And we’re used to the work,” Mark said.
When Roger first mentioned his desire to sell the restaurant a couple of years ago, the Cooks started talking about investing their time and energy in the business. They had been customers, of course, especially when their own children were younger and celebrated plenty of birthdays and other special occasions there.
“We joked about it for a while,” Kathy said, adding that the couple’s youngest son in
“We knew this was a very stable and successful business,” said Mark. “My son has been farming with me, and we decided this was a good time for me to quit and let him take over, although I’ll still farm some.”
Kathy has been employed by MTI for 15 years, working out of the Mohall office after serving as a former office manager in Kenmare. She finished her tenure with MTI at the end of May.
The Cooks agreed Roger and Shelly have made the transition easy for them. “Roger’s been helpful with everything on the business end,” said Kathy, “and Shelly has been excellent, showing us everything to do.”
For the past two weeks, the couple has put in several hours at their new business, learning the pizza trade from the Nesses and the staff.
“April [Helwig] told me I made good ‘skins’ (pizza crusts) today,” Kathy said Monday morning, “and it’s only my second day of making them!”
“The staff has been easy to work with,” added Mark, “and they’re all fun to be around.”
Once they have a feel for the daily routine and perfect their pizza-making skills, the Cooks are looking to expand their operation. They plan to start serving hamburger patties made with state-inspected Angus beef raised by their son Josh and his wife Kari Cook of Dakota Sunset Meat. They’re considering different options to accommodate the oilfield workers living in Kenmare.
“And after we get our feet on the ground, we’ve talked about adding some evening meals,” Mark said. He described the possibility of including one or two steak dinners on the menu, supplied by Dakota Sunset Meat.
Most of all, however, the Cooks intend to maintain the great food and service offered by Roger and Shelly. “We want people to be able to come here and enjoy themselves,” said Kathy, “and we want to provide good service to the community. Everyone is welcome here, and we hope to have this be as successful a business as Roger and Shelly have had.”
The familiar phone number will remain the same, too, at 701-385-4896 for M&K’s Pizza Hub.