Rico’s Pizza adapts to new ownership

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The restaurant is barely larger than two offices put together. Nestled in an inconspicuous location between many larger buildings right before a large intersection of Broad Street and US 321, the pizzeria has nonetheless cultivated a culture of local dedication and passion often absent from the chains not three blocks down the road.

Butch Edmonson has been working for the local pizza joint since March of last year, after a long musical career that took him to many different establishments with his band.

Now, as his older years arrive and his days in the music industry end, he said he needed something to do.

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“I could not do music anymore, and this pays the bills,’ Edmonson said.

Edmonson, a soft-spoken individual, shows a humility reflected from the location itself: a tiny pizzeria enclosed on the end of a small strip center across from the rebuilt Carter County Bank on Broad Street.

He said he continued working at the original Rico’s Pizza at Stony Creek because of the quality of the food itself.

This love of the food he creates prompted him to accept the offer to purchase the new Broad Street location, which opened this past November.

Charles Young, one of the employees, has been working at both locations since 2012, and he said the difference in quality between them and other chains is in the ingredients themselves.

“We make our own ingredients right here,” Young said. “In here, we work in a fishbowl, so you can see everything we do to make it.”

Edmonson said this quality of product is what drives the business forward.

“Business will be good if the food is good,” Edmonson said.

Despite the learning curve of handling a business as opposed to simply working for one, he says the customers motivates him to keep working.

“I love seeing them enjoy the food here,” he said.

Despite the small enclosure, the restaurant has managed to carve its own, vibrant atmosphere there. Various art pieces, Young’s work, adorn the walls, including an in-progress mural piece of the Rialto waterways in Europe.

“I can practice my artwork here,” Young said.

Edmonson said his work at Rico’s Pizza is another part of his life here at Elizabethton, and he has no intention of changing the memorable experience the restaurant provides.

“I have lived here all my life,” he said. “Everything is the same as it always was before.”

Young said the restaurant’s quality is partly the dedication to fresh ingredients, but it is also because of their commitment to a high standard akin to the most famous places in the country.

“We cannot say we are as good as the places in New York or Chicago, but we strive for that standard every day,” Young said.