By Deb Patterson
MILFORD — The door at 130 S. Main St., Milford, was locked for the last time as Whetten Pizza.
The restaurant, family-owned and catered to the family, had been a mainstay downtown business for 34 years. But Saturday, June 27, was the last day. The future of the building is unknown.
For the past several months there were subtle indications the business would be closing. Pictures of California were gone. A collection of Coca Cola items was taken down.
Steve Whetten opened the restaurant Jan. 2, 1986, after returning to the area from California. While in California, Whetten had worked several years at Stroups, an Italian shop with pizza that was opened in an old chicken hatchery. “I liked the business and liked doing it,” he said. So when the family returned he opened Whetten Pizza.
Since the building was previously a barbershop — operated by Leon Newman, there was some remodeling. But the interior has remained the same since.
Whetten ran the business during the day with his mother, Nancy Savala, and his sister, Pam Walker, and others managing the restaurant in the evenings.
Whetten Pizza started out offering pizzas, sub sandwiches, hamburgers and salads. The menu grew in the first 10 years to begin offering daily specials and french fried foods, wet burritos, chili and soups, various sandwiches, dinners and side items. A mainstay lunch special was all you could eat pizza.
“All the recipes were from the shop in California,” Whetten said, noting the pizza and spaghetti sauce, cheese and chili were all from Stroups. The daily lunch specials and other soups were recipes from his mom and sister. His mother managed the store for 21 years.
“I’m done. Tired,” said Whetten about the closing.
The business was booming for the local restaurant daily at lunch as employees from businesses around the area packed the restaurant. In the evenings families came and sat at a booth or one of the large tables to enjoy a meal. But the business closed for a time in mid-2018 when his mother became ill and needed full time care. When it reopened, employees were hard to find, so hours were reduced with often just his sister cooking and taking care of the business.
This was the start of the family saying it was over. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t help.
“Do I want to? I don’t, but I do,” said Whetten. He expressed great appreciation to the loyal and regular customers through the years.
Whetten stated to him, the restaurant was a big part of Milford, and was realized when other businesses uptown Milford left. He noted the loss of a grocery store, drug store, hardware store and a bank from the downtown area and town hurt all businesses.
Without the business to operate, Whetten will go back to doing what he has been doing, driving a semitractor/trailer. His sister, he said, needs to get healthy.