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Blose Brothers Bring New Flavor to New Bethlehem
The Blose brothers grew up around New Bethlehem.
Zack noted that their parents actually met in the building where he now operates his business: his mother was working at the Wood Street Station Restaurant, and his father was working at the gym located on the second floor of the building at the time.
Zack’s earliest work experience was also in the restaurant industry in New Bethlehem. His very first job during his senior year of high school was at Rocky’s Pizza, though he had no idea then he would end up buying the business someday.
He worked at Rocky’s until his high school graduation, then he moved on to work at the Holiday Inn in Clarion for a while before deciding to go to culinary school. He went back to working at Rocky’s Pizza part-time while attending IUP’s Culinary Arts program in Punxsutawney; he graduated from the program in 2012.
He jumped around a bit after finishing culinary school; he worked for Grove City College, the Holiday Inn, Clarion University, and Tuff’s Smokin’ Grill before deciding to strike out on his own. He found his opportunity back at his first workplace, Rocky’s Pizza. He purchased the business and renamed it Zack’s Shack in 2016, but he knew right away that he wouldn’t keep it exactly the same.
Zack told exploreClarion.com, “I guess, I never really wanted to run a pizza shop. I just kind of wanted to do my own thing, and that was the most affordable way I could do that at the time. But, I made the best of it, and we did some weird stuff that you normally wouldn’t do in a pizza shop – which I think came from me not wanting to be a pizza shop.”
Zack’s Shack did well and soon made a name for itself among locals, but the format and space were always a bit of an issue. Within the first year of opening, things changed when New Bethlehem found itself with a bit of an overload of pizza.
“There was always Village, Joe’s, and Rocky’s. I bought Rocky’s and turned it into Zack’s. Then, Wanda’s opened, and there were four, and then Fox’s opened last fall. When they opened, that was kind of like when we started planning for the rebranding and started doing different specials and selling stuff that wasn’t pizza. There was just too much pizza, and we had to set ourselves apart.”
“We did this whole rebranding thing, changed the logo, the menu, quit doing deliveries, and all kinds of stuff, which began on January first – new year, new Zack’s.”
An entirely new location wasn’t part of the original plan, but a sudden opportunity changed that.
“We were trying to figure out what to do with the seating over there (the former Rocky’s location) because we had six seats, and we knew this place (the new Wood Street location) was empty, so we called Don to see if he would sell any of these booths, and he said, ‘Well, why don’t you just rent the place?'”
They came to an agreement, and before he knew it, Zack went from operating a tiny pizza shop to having the resources of a full-service restaurant in early 2018.
Although it took some time, some money, and some hard work, things have been going well at the new location.
“So far, it’s been pretty busy. I haven’t really had much time to think about anything else.”
Of course, even after the rebranding, moving to an entirely different venue mean making more changes and adding new items to their repertoire. One of the changes was the addition of a specialty coffee menu, including everything from lattes to espresso.
“We’re the only ones in town with this kind of coffee. We’re trying to do like a spin on a Starbucks coffee shop kind of feel.”
The pair has even been considering turning the one corner of the front dining area, just to the right of the main entrance, into a lounge area, complete with comfy couches, chairs, and end tables, creating a mixed venue completely different than anything else available in the area.
The brothers are also currently working on updating the menu to more of a full restaurant format. They are changing the organization of the menu, while still leaving rotating weekly chef’s choice items highlighted.
“The whole idea with this menu is to kind of be a stepping stone toward no more pizza shop stuff. The plan with the new menu is to gear it toward having an actual restaurant. When we made that (the current menu) we had no idea we were going to move over here.”
“That’s always been the thing for me, to figure out how to sell real food out of a pizza shop. Then we moved here, and now it’s a different story completely.”
Real food, beyond a pizza shop-style menu, is definitely available at Zack’s now. Their Sunday brunch buffet this week included everything from classic breakfast items – like french toast and sausage gravy over biscuits – to pasta and even prime rib, sliced to order right at the buffet.
They are also planning some special events for the future. The first event, a BYOB Trivia Night, is scheduled for Saturday, May 26, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The evening will include live entertainment and a special buffet to help transition from the pizza shop menu to the new restaurant menu starting on May 30.
“Though I don’t know if I can wait two more months,” said Zack.
Although they’re anticipating unveiling the new menu and looking forward to settling in and creating their own one of a kind venue, they’re still not sure about what the future may hold.
“My life is chaos; I just try to get through it one day at a time. It’s hard enough for me to plan the weekly specials a week in advance. Everything is kind of like, ‘what if?’ So, it’s hard to plan.”
“We have a lease for two years, so we’ll probably be here that long, but who knows after that? I mean, we didn’t even think we’d be here two months ago. I was just trying to buy a couple of booths.”
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