Author: Shannon Wells – The Outlook
When a college student takes a part-time job at a pizza shop, it’s typically little more than a way to help pay for bills, beer – and more pizza.
Although he didn’t know at the time, Mike Lachner’s long-ago gig at the local Pizza Factory shop while a student at California State University, Fresno, now appears to be a visionary, albeit accidental, career move.
With his son, Justin, and wife, Carol, as business partners, the 46-year-old Lachner opened Oregon’s first Pizza Factory restaurant at 649 N.W. 12th St. in late October. Featuring pizza made with hand-tossed dough, pastas, salads, sandwiches along with amenities including an all-you-can-eat pizza and salad lunch buffet, Pizza Factory fills in a missing pizza parlor niche in the sprawling Gresham Station shopping complex.
After the first several weeks of operation, Lachner, a former contractor, is confident his Damascus family’s dive into the restaurant business was a fortuitous move.
“We’re striving to provide an awesome experience,” he said. “We’ve set the bar pretty high and hold our employees to a high standard. We hope that reflects on the public. We’ve got a lot of return on customers already.”
The menu at Pizza Factory, which started in 1985 in Oakhurst, Calif., near Fresno, includes calzones, ravioli, and other pastas, soups, sandwiches, salads, chicken wings and appetizers. Build-you-own pizzas range from $6 for a mini 8-inch to $18 for the X-Large 16 inch with 12 slices. Specialties, which cost between $9 and $25, include the The Gorge (pepperoni, salami, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, olives and sausage); the Hawaiian (Canadian bacon, pineapple and mozzarella cheese); and the Veggie (black olives, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and tomatoes).
All ingredients and recipes, Lachner stresses, are exclusive to the Pizza Factory franchise.
“All our food is proprietary,” he said. “Our sauce, dough, everything, is made fresh daily. The vegetables, dough, and sauce have a unique taste (based on) the Pizza Factory recipes.”
The Pizza Factory offers take out, delivery, 10 rotating draft beer taps and seating for 144 in an L-shaped, multi-level dining area. TVs are generally tuned to sports channels and an arcade game section will help keep younger customers entertained.
Justin Lachner, 20, who previously worked in construction with his dad before joining the new family business, noted the lunch buffet &emdash; all-you-can-eat for $8.95 or two slices and a drink for $3.50 &emdash; is getting lots of attention.
“You definitely get a bang for your buck,” he said. “Pizza, salad bar, soups, the whole nine yards, and you get a drink. And it’s fast. You can walk in and sit down on a half-hour lunch and be in and out.”
The Lachners, who plan to open a second Oregon location at the Happy Valley Crossroads center by next summer, want their restaurants to be a focal point for the local community.
“Being part of this community is a huge part of the Pizza Factory,” Mike said, noting that charity- and school-oriented fundraisers and events are already in the works. “We really wanted to provide a unique atmosphere in Gresham, a place to go, sit down and watch your favorite sports team. Who doesn’t love pizza?”