“I’ve known Larry for a long time,” Martini said as Lancelle poised the large scissors over the red ribbon. “We used to battle over car deals when he was at (Jones West) Ford and I was at Great Basin (Credit Union). Now we are glad to have you in Sparks.”
Larry sliced the ribbon with one smooth cut, officially delivering Straw Hat Pizza to Spanish Springs.
Customers who walk into the Southern California-themed restaurant are greeted by a smile and a bright yellow surfboard signed by actor Matthew McConaughey.
“We are required by the company to have a surfboard in the restaurant,” Lori said.
When the couple was in Malibu Calif., for their Straw Hat franchise training they met McConaughey as they were walking the town. Larry said that they ran over to a surf shop and picked up a board for him to sign.
“Larry even got to barbecue with him a few times,” Lori said.
The restaurant filled with the sound of chatter and chamber members chomping on free wings as the noon lunch crowd rolled in.
Larry can usually be found taking orders, serving tables and peering over the ovens in the kitchen. Yesterday he was behind the bar, keeping the drinks flowing.
“I used to work for a Straw Hat Pizza, oh, a long time ago,” Larry said. He now employs a staff of 35.
Larry said he worked for the chain about 15 years ago and has been a Sparks resident for 20 years.
“There used to be five of these in the area,” Larry said. “That mechanical horse over there came from the old Glendale location.”
Now the closest Straw Hat Pizza is in Carson City.
“It’s been great so far,” he said. “People ask if I own this place and I have to say ‘No, it owns me.’ ”
The Lancelles keep busy from 10:30 in the morning to 10 at night, and 11 p.m. on weekends.
The pizza place is the first to be built in the Reno-Sparks area since Straw Hat became a cooperative in 1987. The restaurant is the only Straw Hat to ever have a full bar.
“It seems to have a variety,” Chamber member Carol Evans said. “They have something for the kids and the bar for the adults.”
Lori said she was surprised at the turnout for Wednesday’s ribbon cutting. She mingled with the guests as her husband served the drinks.
“You can’t beat free food,” said Lynn Tackman, Sparks Chamber of Commerce office manger.
Dennis Padgett of Padgett Insurance said he was there to support a local restaurant.
“I love pizza, so this will be good,” he said. “And it’s just right around the corner from my house.”
Lenn Stevens, executive director of the Sparks Chamber of Commerce, got to the ribbon cutting early, shook hands and handed out cups for the fountain drinks.
“Sparks is no longer a place where you just sleep and you go to Reno for everything else,” Stevens said.
“It is great for residents to know that you can jump in your car and decide when you get there what you want to eat.”