For loyal Shakespeare’s customers, pizza tops location

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Aboma Galatta has been eating at Shakespeare’s Pizza since 1991, and he believes the restaurant’s temporary move to a different building is a “great transition in terms of location.”

shakespears_location The iconic Columbia pizza place moved one block from its longtime home last month because the owners of that building are demolishing it to make way for redevelopment. Though the relocation has affected Shakespeare’s business to some extent, Galatta doesn’t mind.

“It’s an easy transition,” he said.

“If I had to go to the Walmart at Grindstone Parkway, I would be angry.”

On the other hand, Jonathan Weng, who has been eating at Shakespeare’s for 20 years, has some issues with the new restaurant’s layout.

“Because of the current layout, you don’t get to see what you have ordered until they serve,” Weng said. “Previously, you could easily watch what you ordered.”

shakespears_space_new Weng said that’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s less convenient for customers who are new to Shakespeare’s and don’t know what the restaurant has to offer.

Even so, thanks to loyal customers like Galatta and Weng, Shakespeare’s management is hopeful the restaurant can succeed during its current change of scenery.

“We have 70 less seats than we had at (our) previous location, but we’ve been seeing tons of similar faces every day,” said Toby Epstein, the general manager of Shakespeare’s downtown location.

Shakespeare’s had occupied its original location, at 9th and Elm, since its founding in 1973. But that building, owned by MacAlester Park LLC, has been vacated and is scheduled for demolition on Monday.

shakespears_production Now located at 220 South Eighth Street, Shakespeare’s will move back to its original site when a new building is constructed there. The target date for that is August 2016, Epstein said.

Shakespeare’s started operating at its temporary location on May 29. Epstein said the summer is a relatively slow time of year anyway, with many college students out of town. But the restaurant is satisfied, Epstein said, because “without investing too much money and effort” it has been attracting customers.

“We have been delivering the same pizzas and same service,” he said, “and for our customers, our pizza is more important than the location.”

Epstein declined to disclose specific sales numbers, but he said the number of pizzas Shakespeare’s is selling has dipped to about 275 per day, down from its usual summertime rate of about 400 per day. 

“On-site, now we are selling two-thirds of what we used to sell at our previous location,” Epstein said. “But we hope to pick up sales in fall.”

shakespears_pizza_and_beer Like the restaurant’s customers, Shakespeare’s employees have been required to adjust to the new environment. But the staff’s response to the move has been incredible, Epstein said.

“The cooperation from the staff members was remarkable,” he said. “They helped like family members and facilitated us in relocating.”

Epstein said the restaurant has ambitious plans for the future, but those will have to wait for at least another year, after Shakespeare’s returns to the renovated site of its original home.

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