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Papa Murphy's to open first location by June 1

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Papa Murphy's will be serving pizza in Springfield June 1.

Randy and Lauren Thomas and Dani and John Linkhart are co-owners of Papa Murphys' Take 'N' Bake Pizza, a restaurant franchise that is not only new to Springfield, but new to Missouri. The three restaurants will be located in three former Burger Station restaurants at 500 S. Glenstone Ave., 4035 S. Campbell Ave. and 2456 N. Kansas Expwy.

The vacant former drive-through restaurants were ideal because of their high visibility and because each had a pick-up window, Dani Linkhart said. The Linkharts owned three Papa Murphy's in California, but sold them to open another store in Colorado, which they co-own with their daughter. Lauren Thomas is also their daughter, and when the Linkharts came to visit her in Springfield, they saw "three perfect locations" for the take-and-bake pizza shops.

"All of the Papa Murphy's we've owned have been successful. We are convinced that there's a place for this type of restaurant in the Springfield market," Dani Linkhart said.

The Springfield market will be a good test market for the business because it is a "tough market," Dani Linkhart said.

"If you can make it in Springfield, you can make it anywhere," Randy Thomas said.

Papa Murphy's shops are most common in the western portion of the country; Missouri will be the farthest east the company has franchises. There are 350 independently-owned Papa Murphy's franchises in the country, Dani Linkhart said. By the end of 1998, there should be 400. The company had not planned to expand into Missouri this year, but the Linkharts and Thomases convinced them now was the time and Springfield the place.

"The company will be nationwide by 2002. There are not yet any locations east of the Mississippi River," John Linkhart said.

Papa Murphy's began in 1981 in Petaluma, Calif. It later merged with Papa Aldo's, an Oregon-based company, in 1995.

The Linkharts came out of retirement in 1993 to open their first Papa Murphy's and have been involved in the franchises ever since. The first store to open in Springfield will be the Kansas location, June 1, followed by the Glenstone store, June 24, and the Campbell store, July 8.

The pizza shop, which Dani Linkhart calls "retail pizza" will have no cooking, only preparation of pizzas and calzones, which are then to be taken home and baked. The concept came about, John Linkhart said, because the company wanted "its customers to experience the pizza fresh and hot." The stores will have no ovens, and will be able to honor United States Department of Agriculture Food Stamps (now EBT cards).

The two couples are 50/50 owners in Papa Murphy's Pizza of Springfield LLC. Financing for the new stores has come from the Linkharts' and Thomas' own investment and through a Papa Murphy's financing organization called FMAC.

The focus of Papa Murphy's is on the quality, John Linkhart said.

"We put nearly a pound of cheese on each large pizza and 70 slices of pepperoni. There is just no comparison to the quality of these pizzas," John Linkhart said.

Randy Thomas will manage the Kansas store initially, but the Thomases will eventually run all three stores. Dani and John Linkhart will be managing the other two stores initially.

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