Classification: Franchise, Convenience
Location: Spring Park, Minnesota
While I've never completely embraced the take-and-bake concept, I concede that there's something oddly satisfying about walking out of a Papa Murphy's store with a prepped-before-your-eyes pizza. I like carrying out the pizza with one hand, centered carefully underneath. I like the Cling Wrap, and also how they subtly insert a coupon right before sealing. And I like the peculiar silence and eclectic mix of customers working hard to avoid eye contact, which threw me a curve at first, but now I find it comforting. The entire experience has turned into a pleasant and familiar tango. And I like their pizza.
It wasn't always this way. My first visit in the early 90s was marred by the unfamiliarity of an all-new, space-age format. I was that customer--nervously glancing at the menu, but not really reading it, hoping that some clarity on what was expected of me would emerge. I battled through it, but due to my inability to properly bake a pizza at home, well...we got off on the wrong foot. But gradually the pieces fell into place and it became a regular in our dinner rotation. We enjoyed the heart-shaped on Valentine's Day, and the famous Jack-O-Lanterns every Halloween. With their aggressive promotions, we could easily feed the family for $7-8. Eventually, the sameness of it all made my wife grow weary, but that merely gave me and my son a chance for ingenuity, as a friendly competition blossomed to see who could cut pizza in the weirdest possible fashion. You ever had a jigsaw cut? A pizza spiral? Or concentric pizza rings? We perfected shoestring pizza fingers.
And to finish the story, a slight non-sequitur: They'll often ask for your name when the store is crowded to ensure a proper hand delivery by calling out completed orders by name. Early on, I think the manager mumbled a question about my name, but I was eyeballing the cookie dough or something, and didn't respond. But I was wearing a baseball cap, and when I picked up my pizza, it was ascribed "Twins Fan." And in all my follow-up visits, that became my identity, or at least, to her. A few years ago, we bought tickets to our nearby Historical Society's annual gala, An Evening with Kevin Sorbo. Obviously, all the local megastars were in attendance, and we were fortunate enough to sit near the Papa Murphy's manager, but I was too star-struck to speak to her without my Twins cap. The entire affair was wrought with bittersweetness: Sorbo was magical that night, but it was the last time I've ever seen the manager. (7 of 10 stars)