By Suzette Lowe
The adage, “you can’t go home again,” has not proven true for local restaurant, Fat Albert’s Pizza.
In August, the popular eatery changed locations, moving back to the building where it originated in 1983.
Owner Amanda Smith says the move was one she’d been considering for a while.
“There were a couple of major reasons for the move,” Smith said. “The parking has long been an issue at the former location. And I wanted to be a little closer to town. Coming home to the original building was an added bonus.”
Smith is well aware of the restaurant’s history.
“It was started by Albert and Debbie Cunningham (now Debbie Starcher),” she said. “When they were here, they only had the one room. We’ve also got the room next door which is housing our kitchen. After Albert passed, Debbie moved to the little red building.”
Starcher said she is excited to see it back in the building where it originated.
“I just thought ‘how precious,’ Albert would have been so happy,” she said.
Smith, who bought the business in 2016, described the process as a little unusual.
“I honestly had never heard of Fat Alberts,” she said with a smile. “I’m a Ravenswood girl so I’d never eaten there. But my husband at the time had always been a fan.”
Smith said her ex-husband ate lunch frequently at the restaurant and would ask Debbie and her daughter Lisa if they ever wanted to sell. Although he never really expected the answer to be yes, Smith said he would ask every time he ate there.
“He came home one day and said it was available and I ought to invest in it,” Smith said. “I’d always worked in restaurants, particularly Dairy Queens. I wanted to have my own place one day.”
While Fat Alberts was able to stay open during the height of COVID-19, offering carry out and curbside, Smith said she did have to close for 27 days to move, get set up, and have the proper inspections.
The new location offers seating for 10.
“I debated not having any inside seating as most people really just want to drop by and pick up,” Smith said. “But I have some regulars that love to come in for lunch and just sit and chat. And I enjoy having them here.”
With her life-long friend Michael Butcher as chef and Lydia Eckmeyer as the morning prep person, business continues as usual.
“My daughter also works when needed and I usually try to employ 10-12 part-time workers,” Smith stated. “As for the artwork, including the wall-board menu, I credit Lydia. She’s amazing.”
The move isn’t the only thing that will be new, according to Smith.
“While we’re keeping our menu the same, I’m also looking to add some things,” she said. “Once they reach my standards, we’ll include them. And outdoor seating will be available sometime this spring when we get the covered patio built. We also plan to sell pepperoni rolls and drinks during all of the Ripley parades.”
There is a satisfaction for Smith in owning her own business.
“It’s not for everyone,” she said. “The most important thing for me is being able to show my daughter that you don’t need others to take care of you. If I’m successful, she can see that hard work pays off. I think she’s taken that lesson to heart because she’s a full-time student, a co-op with WVU medicine, and has two part-time jobs. I’ve very proud of her.”
Fat Albert’s Pizza
256 South Church Street, Ripley 304-372-4343
11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Delivery locations: Kenna Exxon, Evans John King Hill, Sandyville Y, Route 33 Hil-Mart, Fairplain, Ripley, and Ravenswood (Thursdays)