Atchison County residents are stunned to learn that Pizza Hut in Tarkio has closed its doors indefinitely. The local restaurant has fed its hungry patrons for over 40 years and is one of the last few restaurants still available in the community.
Over Christmas weekend, a sign appeared on the doors to the restaurant stating, “To our valued customers, this location is permanently closed. Thank you for your business. If you have any questions or comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.” This permanent closure follows a recent temporary closure at the restaurant that had supposedly been for restructuring and remodeling. When the restaurant opened again, it had cut back hours and days of operation from every day to only Thursday through Sunday.
Unfortunately, the employees were not notified ahead of time about this permanent closure and were as shocked as the customers. Tarkio Pizza Hut’s General Manager Erica Gladman said, “On Sunday, I went in to do the normal opening prep. At 10:00 a.m., Joe and his boss showed up and told me that corporate was shutting our location down that day. I had no warning of this. I had six employees, three high schoolers, myself and two other adults. I have no idea what will happen to the building or the property itself. But it was pretty upsetting with the timing and upsetting for the town as well. I had been there over nine years and I absolutely loved my job.”
Besides serving delicious food since it opened in the fall of 1977, the restaurant played a huge community service role. In the 80s, Pizza Hut took on a national role to improving education, implementing the “BOOK IT!” program encouraging youth to read and offering incentives with free pizza when they reached their goals. Hundreds of thousands of children have taken part, including students in Tarkio too numerous to estimate. The Tarkio restaurant has also made donations over the years, giving monies to local organizations and non-profits or allowing those organizations to serve for one night and earn a percentage of that night’s proceeds. Hundreds of Atchison County children have had their birthday parties there, or Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts gatherings or made their own personal pizzas with the help of the employees. Local teams have celebrated their wins or tended to their wounds from losses by congregating at the Tarkio Pizza Hut and digging in to the scrumptious food. And through it all the employees always had a smile on their face and great service.
Tarkio’s Pizza Hut is owned by Grand Mere Restaurant Group, “a private business focused on making long-term investments into the restaurant franchise sector.” The closure will be a huge loss for Tarkio, which has seen its restaurant industry dwindle significantly over the years.