The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 1, 2014

Wally Kennedy: CiCi’s return welcomed with enthusiasm

JOPLIN, Mo. — You could almost feel the happiness Friday at CiCi’s Pizza, 1602 S. Range Line Road. I think people are genuinely happy that CiCi’s has come back after the tornado.

I went there for lunch when it was sleeting outside. I was hoping to avoid a long line. The line was smaller than it had been on previous days, but I still had to wait. But that gave me time to observe how the management and help were handling the onslaught of hungry people.

It was amazing to watch. The restaurant is employing 60 people to prepare and maintain the pizza, salad and dessert buffet, and to clear tables as soon as possible for the next wave of customers. I’m telling you these people are moving pizza like nobody’s business.

Like that “Duck Dynasty” guy on TV, I’m “happy, happy, happy’’ to report that CiCi’s is rolling out quality pizza for $5.49 per person — just like it did before the tornado took out its popular restaurant in the Bel-Air Shopping Center almost three years ago.

My favorite thing about CiCi’s is its miniature cinnamon rolls. When I was there on Friday, I had to wait at the counter for about 15 seconds for a fresh batch to come out. When it came out, the woman yelled: “Fresh cinnamon rolls!’’

I had been standing there by myself waiting on that fresh batch. In the blink of an eye, I was surrounded by people who wanted their share. A food fight did not break out, but there were a couple of furtive looks that suggested any hesitation on my part would be a mistake. Fortunately, I had the only tongs.    

James Martin, an owner who lives in Joplin, said he has 30 years of experience in the pizza business and has seen his share of openings, but he has not seen anything quite like this.

“When we opened on Monday (Feb. 24), there was a line outside that was all of the way around the south side of the building,’’ he said. That, more or less, would continue for several days.

But it was something else that Martin noticed.

“The enthusiasm from the customers about us being back has been tremendous,’’ he said. “I don’t know how to describe it.’’

About two weeks ago, I told Martin’s partner, Greg Costley, of Tulsa, Okla., that he needed to prepare for a big opening. I knew it was coming based on the number of inquiries in emails and telephone calls that I was receiving about the return. I wasn’t the only one. A spokeswoman for the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce told me they had received more calls about CiCi’s return than any other.

Martin said it has been difficult to maintain the quality and service that CiCi’s expects because of the tremendous volume of the past few days. He asked for forgiveness if you were one of those customers whose experience was not up to par.

How often have you heard that from a business owner?

That’s why CiCi’s, in my humble opinion, has become the people’s choice for pizza.

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