It flew under the radar in Kansas City, but the longest-running Pizza Hut restaurant, located in Manhattan, Kan., closed its doors recently.
The Aggieville location had a nearly 55-year run, but the fact that these days most people want their pizzas delivered to their homes rather than their tables sealed the restaurant’s fate.
“This was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life,” co-founder Bernie Butler said. “But we finally had to acknowledge the financial side of the business outweighed the history of the place.”
Speaking of history, I didn’t realize that Pizza Hut was started in Wichita back in 1958. Seems two Wichita State University students, brothers Frank and Dan Carney, borrowed $600 from their mom to open a pizzeria.
That single restaurant has grown into more than 6,000 Pizza Huts worldwide. The Aggieville location was the eighth Pizza Hut in franchise history.
I spoke with Rose Pritchard, a partner in the Aggieville Pizza Hut restaurant, who agreed with Butler that the closing was difficult.
“Over the last 10 years or so, we saw a significant trend that people favored delivery over dining in, and there are two other franchises on either side of us that can handle that business,” Pritchard said. “Plus, I can’t even count the number of restaurants and bars that have opened in Aggieville. There’s just so much competition these days.”
The Aggieville restaurant at 1121 Moro St. was the first Pizza Hut franchise in Manhattan. It was a centerpiece of the evolving Aggieville business district from Day 1. Butler and Pritchard said it’s hard to believe the restaurant’s days are over.
“If you asked me in 1960 how long the Aggieville store would have lasted, I doubt I would have said almost 55 years,” Butler said. “No one even knew what a pizza was.
“I’m very proud of the success we’ve achieved here in Manhattan, and I’m very grateful to all of the people who have helped us get there. I’m so lucky to have been surrounded by great people.”
The Aggieville location officially shuttered its doors at 11 p.m. on July 26, and with it went a piece of Aggieville, Manhattan and Kansas history.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.