Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 20, 1994, pg. 2.
Businesses have come, and businesses have gone in downtown Albion through the years. It is interesting to see how nationwide trends have affected downtown Albion, and the changes that have occurred. Across from City Hall on W. Cass St. there used to be a row of one-story buildings that were demolished on September 29, 1990. In its place the city parking lot was expanded, and a quaint little park was built adjacent to Albion Travel, formerly the Helpy Selfy Laundry building. On the site of this park, 113 W. Cass St., was the building which housed Albion’s first pizza restaurant, Pizza Pete’s.
Pizza Pete’s opened on July 8, 1960, in the location of Ted McAuliffe’s "Tin Shop," the latter of whom was near retirement and was selling his equipment. Although other locations in Albion made pizza, they were taverns and not exclusively a pizza establishment. When Pizza Pete’s opened, respectable Albion citizens, including ministers, could walk in and order a pizza, and not have to go into a tavern in order to get it. Pizza Pete’s was a "take-out" business, as this helped keep the operation simple for the owners.
Owners of Pizza Pete’s were none other than Pete Asaro, Sr. (1922-1995) and my father Frank Passic, Sr. (1919-1974), who were lifelong friends. Pete’s Italian background made him a natural for the business. His mother Mary (Mrs. Vito) Asaro made the best pizza around, and it was always a treat to be able to eat her thick-crust, home-made Italian pizza. Unfortunately, no one recorded the recipe--there wasn’t one, it was all in her head and we all wish we had learned the ingredients before she passed away. Those who ever tasted Mrs. Asaro’s homemade pizza can still remember that unique taste today. With proper management, she probably could have made a fortune with it, but as "family secrets" go, it went with her.
Pete worked at Union Steel Products, and my father at Nieko’s Body Shop. The pair decided on this moonlighting project together. The two began their after-hours construction work on June 1, 1960, and started cleaning, painting, and building counters and worktables. Since both men were used to forming metal parts, they built and formed their own hoods over the ovens, made a stainless steel worktable, and other equipment.
During the first year of operation, the business averaged from 300 to 350 pizzas a week. Local high school and college students were hired to run the establishment. At the beginning, the sausage was cooked at our home on S. Eaton St., or at the Asaro’s on Lombard St. The wives apparently tired of this after a while and encouraged the sausage to be cooked "on premises" thereafter. Pizza supplies were received each week from the Paul Fata & Son firm in Lansing. I distinctly remember folding pizza boxes each week, and they were stacked by sizes in the back of the store. Pizzas were sold in 9, 12, and 14-inch sizes.
There were also pizza deliveries. A record was made on November 22, 1960, when Pete and my father made and delivered 25 pizzas in 20 minutes. Take that, Domino’s! As the business grew, they were able to buy the entire building from Ted McAuliffe, remodel the store, and expand it to include the entire building. A beautiful redwood front was constructed, which replaced the original glass and pane storefront look.
In 1968 my father opened his own body shop, and both owners could not devote the time to the business as they had before. It was taken over by Ned Comfort who ran it for a short period, before selling it to my cousin Thomas Pasick (1941-1989) who with his wife Kathy, ran it into the early 1970s.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Pizza Pete’s, as it looked in the late 1960s. Also a photograph of Pete (left) and Frank (right) diligently at work in 1960, shown preparing a pizza.
As some of you know, this historian has his own archives, and is always looking for old photographs of Albion and its people, old city directories, telephone books, school yearbooks and school newspapers, and historical materials about the Albion area. These things help me greatly in the subject matter and illustrations when preparing these articles. If you have anything like this you can part with, let me know. Rest assured it will be used, researched and appreciated by yours truly.
Pizza Pete and Frank
Next: THE EGG HOUSE
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic