Josh Crawford has spent half his life in the pizza business, starting as a 16-year-old in a small Kearney pizza restaurant and then later working at a pizza chain operation in Liberty for a dozen years.
Along the way, he would come up with ideas for better products and techniques. Some the chain operation picked up, but some he kept for himself, knowing that he would one day helm his own operation.
He also trained servers, including his future wife Sheri, and they worked side-by-side, five to six days a week, for nine years.
“We couldn’t imagine working any place where we weren’t working together. We are a team,” he said.
They tossed around the idea of having their own pizza place when they were dating and after marrying. Then in May they signed a lease for a space at 858 S. Missouri 291 in Liberty and opened J&S Pizza in late August.
“We wanted to serve high quality food at a reasonable price in a family atmosphere,” Josh said. “We were very picky, from the dough to the cheese to the sauce.”
And he finally got to implement some of those ideas that had been percolating for years — house-made pizza bites, specialty pizza flavors, game area for children, and “more efficient ways to run the kitchen so we can get quality food out as fast as possible,” Josh said.
Specialty pizzas include the popular CBR, with chicken, bacon, ranch dressing and mozzarella, and the Taco Pizza, with refried beans, mozzarella, cheddar, tortilla chips, lettuce and tomato.
In early 2017, J&S Pizza will introduce a Philly cheesesteak pizza and a specialty meatball pizza. The couple also offer pasta and sandwiches including roast beef and ranch and meatball subs, and Cheese Stixs (fresh dough with garlic butter and filled with mozzarella and cheddar), as well as lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
While the Kearney pizza operation, Kookie’s Pizza Pasta & Play, closed a decade ago, Josh said the former owner, Wayne “Kookie” Rickel, continues to serve as a mentor. Rickel had worked in the industry for three decades and still makes pizzas for fundraisers.
“Josh worked for me and his mother worked for me. They are a good family and hard workers,” Rickel said. “He puts out a very good product. And he’s not stuck in the kitchen, he communicates with customers. If you stop by their table and ask they might tell you if there is a problem. You want them to walk out the door satisfied.”
Josh Crawford said: “I’ve always loved pizza and I love my customers. We’re in what I call old Liberty, not with all the new things across the highway, and our customers have accepted us as their local pizza/bar place to go.”
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
New Northland Aldi
The first 100 shoppers in line at 8:45 a.m. will receive a “golden ticket.” After entering the store they exchange the ticket for an envelope containing a gift card worth up to $100.
Aldi also will be handing out an eco-friendly bag to customers and they will be able to sample products. They also will have a chance to enter a sweepstakes for free produce for a year (a gift worth $525) through 8 p.m. that day.
The new Aldi store, at 8780 N. Ambassador Drive, will be the 20th area store for the company. Aldi operates nearly 1,600 stores in 34 states.
At Aldi, customers bring their own bags or buy the store’s reusable ones at checkout. The company said its brands are made “of the same, or even higher, quality than national brands.”
While a typical supermarket can carry about 30,000 items, Aldi says it carries only the weekly basics, which leads to lower rent and electricity costs, and it can pass those savings on to customers.
The new location also will have a new look for Aldi — high ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials, including energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting.