The legend that is Vancouver’s Pied Piper Pizza came to an end in August, as the restaurant’s owners closed its doors Aug. 8.
Austin and Devyn Slagle acquired the store in February of this year.
The restaurant dates back to 1968, when Ray and Cheryl Eggert opened the Pizza Palace, which came to be called Pied Piper Pizza, in 1968 in central Vancouver. They moved it to Orchards in 1972 and then to its location at 12300 Northeast Fourth Plain Blvd. in 1987.
The Eggerts wanted to retire, Austin Slagle said. The Slagles told The Columbian earlier this year that they fondly remembered visiting Pied Piper Pizza when they were growing up in Vancouver. So the couple decided to buy it.
The Slagles own multiple coffee stands and never intended to be there running the pizza joint every day.
“We found somebody who could manage the place while we continued to do our coffee shop thing,” Austin Slagle said.
But objections started flooding in about the new ownership even before any changes were made to the staff or product.
“We got complaint after complaint that it didn’t taste the same,” Austin Slagle said. He understood. The customer perception is that with change comes a change in quality. It’s the same in the coffee business.
So the couple decided since folks would be unhappy about change anyway, they might as well attract new faces with a different style of product, a new era of pizza and more profitable menu items.
The Slagles brought in consultants to help with their menu and invested a lot in the building. They saw a huge spike in sales and volume of customers, Austin Slagle said. But some hated the changes passionately, he added.
“Newly revamped but no good,” read one Yelp review of the restaurant from Sean P. of Vancouver in May. “New menu is missing old favorites, and the new pizza and breadsticks are awful. Little Caesars pizza tastes better than this. They lost another regular customer if this is what they plan to sell and serve from now on.”
Despite many good comments on the restaurant review website, there were still several that didn’t embrace the changes.
“Pied Piper Pizza was one of my favorite pizza joints to go in Vancouver,” read another Yelp review from Ryder L. in July. “One thing I loved about the old Pied Piper is there a variety of pizzas for you to choose from it always had me try something new every time. Now with the menu basically cut in half, I feel it lacks a variety that once the old Pied Pipers possessed. At first I thought it wasn’t a big deal and then eventually I tried the pizza, and I was sadly disappointed. I felt there was too much crust and very small amounts of sauce.”
Some “hated everything it was about because they felt we tarnished the name,” Austin Slagle said.
Eventually, the couple struggled balancing rising labor costs and rising food costs along with a lot happening in their personal lives.
Near the end, Austin Slagle was still working in the store at least three days a week.
“But the numbers didn’t make sense after everything,” Austin Slagle said. “People weren’t happy with change.”
The restaurant just wasn’t profitable, he said.