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Talking shop with Cora Lee Sample of Pop's Pizza
Cora Lee Sample is celebrating Pop's Pizza's 20th anniversary. Pop's recently added a game room to serve area families, and continues to make the same homemade pizza and provide the quality service they always have.
Q: Who was Pop?
A: The place is named after Doyle Sample. The children always called him "Pop" and us "Mom and Pop." It made him feel good to be called "Pop" and to have the place named after him, but "Mom" did all the work. I always wanted to have my own restaurant. He passed away four years ago. He ran a carpet business for 30 years.
Q: What is it like working with family?
A: They're the only ones I can depend on. I get to see my family every day. A lot of people never get to see their children and grandkids because they work all the time. Some families don't get along well enough to work together. It is good that we get to sit here; otherwise we're too busy to visit. It's hard to find good employees, so we go with family.
Q: What has been the key to your success for the last 20 years?
A: Customer service. Good customer service is almost extinct these days. And we do not cut back on products. We use the same tried-and-true ingredients with consistency. I've always been service-oriented. I like to know people by name, and if I don't know their names, I'll at least know what they get to drink and eat. We like to have a personal connection, especially now when people can hardly get service and everything's do it yourself. We always make everything from scratch -- the sauce, the dough, everything. We have a salad bar, macaroni and homemade pizzas.
Q: How have things changed over the years?
A: The costs of products have gone up. We have to deal while trying not to raise our prices. The influx of new places makes it hard. Advertising is the key. Advertising expenses are high, and it's difficult figuring how much advertising will bring you back profits. We've had more people come in looking for mom-and-pop businesses. Things changed for us when the high school moved. People always think of the buffet when they think of us. We're known for the buffet. We started serving plate lunches on Sundays, and serving meals family-style.
Q; What inspired you to put in the game room?
A: The building next door was empty, but we moved it inside the restaurant because it was easier. We needed a place for birthday parties, and we've had several. I've always been very family-oriented. I've always catered to children and children come here. If you get the children, you get the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and the whole tribe. There was little girl who would come here because she'd want to play with the toy pizza oven in the back. We've also always catered to churches and we get a lot of workers. We don't serve alcohol. It's good for youth to come here and play games and eat pizza.
Q: What makes a good pizza?
A: We make our own dough, sauce and everything fresh. A lot of people love our thin and crispy crust. I put love in it. I've always said that's the secret ingredient. I'm picky. You have to have pride in what you put out there. This was an old Pizza Inn, and we used to have the spinning pizza man on our sign until it fell one Christmas Eve. We're the oldest pizza establishment in town.
409 North Clark St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.