This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Washington Imo’s Pizza under the ownership of Craig and Stacey Mueller.
Imo’s has actually been in Washington for 15 years. It was owned for five years by Kim and Debbie Girdner.
Craig Mueller said he always hoped to own an Imo’s Pizza and was pleased to purchase the store on Oct. 9, 2000.
“It was like a dream come true for us,” he said. “We were excited to be here and be a part of it. It was a lifelong dream.”
Once having aspirations of becoming a teacher or professor, Mueller’s favorite part of working at the restaurant is working with kids.
“I don’t think I realized how much the two would mesh,” he said. “I find myself spending a lot of time with high school and college-aged students.”
Mueller noted that spending 20 hours each week with a student is more time than many teachers, parents, coaches or friends see each other.
“We’ve really watched a lot of people grow up in that time,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to be a part of their lives, teach them how to have a job and watch them grow up and do well on their own.”
Mueller has been working at an Imo’s Pizza since he was 14 years old. He took a break for a few years during college, but would still go back and work on winter and summer breaks.
It was at the Imo’s Pizza on Tesson Ferry in South County that he met his wife, who also worked at the restaurant. The couple will celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary just one day after the Washington store’s 10th anniversary.
Another milestone with the restaurant was the birth of their only daughter, Abby, who will turn 10 years old in November.
“It was a crazy first year (in business),” he said, “but if you can make it through that, you can make it through just about anything.”
Stacey Mueller still works at Imo’s Pizza, although most of her work is behind the scenes, handling the accounting, bookwork and public relations for the business.
Since purchasing the restaurant, Craig Mueller said he’s been amazed at the growth of Washington with many new businesses opening here.
“It’s grown in leaps and bounds, and anyone who has been around to see it knows how much it has changed,” he said. “It’s really been a hub of commerce in this whole region.”
The Muellers also have grown their business, opening an Imo’s in Union in 2007.
As the store’s manager, Mueller said he’s worked with really good people over the year and doesn’t have a big problem with turnover, which can sometimes be a problem in the industry.
“I think that’s a testament to the community we live in,” he said. “We have good kids, good people and good families to work with.”
Mueller said perseverance is key to owning and operating a successful restaurant. In his office he has a magnet hanging that says things happen well over a long period of time, because you’re willing to put in the effort every day, do your best every day and provide a consistent experience for everybody.
“Our success is hinged on the ability to put in the time and effort every day,” he said. “And the people who work with us caring as much about the product as we do and the community standing behind our local business.”
Mueller said the store has done far better than he ever expected, despite having high hopes to do well in the first place.
“I really never expected how much we could grow the business in this community,” he remarked.
Mueller noted that Imo’s Pizza has won many Missourian reader’s choice awards over the past 10 years.
“And we hope to be their favorite for years to come,” he said.
To celebrate their 10 years as owners Saturday, Oct. 9, any large pizza with anything on it will be just $10. For the entire month of October, a large, one-topping pizzas will be $10.