In 45 years, some things haven’t changed at Pizza Palace, a popular family-owned and operated restaurant in Seymour.
There always has been crumbly pepperoni and sausage, the pieces always have been small rectangles, and beer always has been served in ice-cold mugs.
But to attract new customers and respond to trends, the business has reinvented itself a few times over nearly half a century.
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Once, the building at 900 W. Tipton St. served as a nightclub for adults called Bumpers, complete with pool tables and dart boards, a dance floor and an outdoor sand volleyball court. Later, it was converted into Kids Pizza Kingdom with games and a ball pit, becoming the site for many children’s birthday parties.
Last fall, Johnny Moore, who owns and operates the business along with his father, John Moore, decided it was time for another change, and work began to update the space into a more modern dining experience resembling a sports bar.
“We decided to do away with the kids side a couple years ago, so we had this side sitting empty,” Johnny Moore said. “It was like, ‘You know what? I think we can work with this side over here.’ So we decided at that point to go ahead and start remodeling.
“You look around and realize we’ve been here a long time,” he added.
Pizza Palace was one of Seymour’s first pizza places, coming long before the major chains, Moore said. It used to be associated with Pizza King but broke away years ago.
A dozen big screen televisions, tuned to sports, the news or children’s programming, now adorn the walls around the unique, circular room. Several monitors also hang from the ceiling in the center of the room to mimic a Jumbotron scoreboard in a sports arena. That way, customers are in sight of a television no matter where they sit, Moore said.
The renovations were completed by a crew from Perry’s Pool Shop and Construction in Seymour.
“They’ve done a great job, and we are really pleased with how it turned out,” Moore said, giving credit to his wife for coming up with the interior decorating ideas.
“My wife and I have visited several pizza places in the southern Indiana and Louisville area, and then some of the sports bars,” he added.
The spacious dining area can now seat up to 170 people, and there is a smaller lounge area with a bar serving several domestic and craft beers on tap, including from Seymour’s own Twisted Crew Brewing Co. and Columbus’ 450 North.
“We’re also going to have a good selection of wine,” he said.
Moore said he doesn’t necessarily like the sports bar comparison because the business will always be about serving families.
“We’re not going to take away from what’s fed us for 45 years,” he said.
The former dining room is being converted to an expanded kitchen and storage area, and the old overflow dining area in the middle now houses the buffet.
“It just makes it nicer for everyone,” he said. “This is just a good, fun, safe place for people to come.”
Response from customers has been positive, he added.
“We’ve been here so long that we have such a loyal following and large customer base,” he said. “I think what this has done is it’s going to take us through the next 45 years.”
Many customers are the children or even grandchildren of customers.
“It’s a generational thing at this point,” he said. “People have grown up with it, and their kids have grown up on it, and now, their kids are starting to grow up on it.”
Longtime patron Curt Nichols of Seymour said he was both excited and impressed by the renovations.
“It looks like a total makeover for the Palace that will keep this iconic restaurant in its place as a Seymour favorite for years to come,” he said. “These unique independently owned eateries help improve our community and differentiate us from others who are overrun by the chains. This will again be a great after the game place to go.”
Julia Aker of Seymour has been a fan of the business for years, often eating there during the lunch buffet.
“The new setup really helps get more food items on the buffet,” she said. “There was room for plenty more people to sit, too.”
Customers don’t have to worry about seeing the menu change, but some new side items are going to be added, including chicken wings, Moore said.
Also, he is planning to hire servers so people won’t have to stand in line to place their orders at the counter and hopes to add fun offerings like karaoke, family nights, televised sporting events and live acoustic music.
“We’ve enhanced the whole experience of coming to Pizza Palace,” Moore said. “It doesn’t look like your mom-and-pop pizza place anymore. It looks like something you’d go to Indy or Louisville to find. It’s more upscale.
“It all boils down to Seymour has been good to Pizza Palace, and I think, in return, Pizza Palace has been good for Seymour,” he said.