Their first store sometimes sold just one pizza a day. Fifty years later, the Buccilli family tree has branched out around northern Michigan through five thriving locations.
In 1973, husband and wife Pat and Mary Lee Buccilli opened Buccilli’s Pizza in a rented building at the south end of Clare, Michigan. The family had been active with pizza restaurants in the Detroit area, but Pat decided to give up his factory job, head north and create his own. “They sold their house and moved up here with almost nothing but the $1,500 they started with,” recounts Shari Buccilli, who now owns the Clare location with her husband, Marc, son of Pat and Mary Lee. “There was already an established pizzeria here, and in a tiny town at that time, how often do people go out to eat? There were some days when they sold one pizza. But with a lot of perseverance, it started catching on.”
Eventually, the pizzeria grew, taking many twists and turns through family ties: In the late ’70s, Marc’s uncle Lou started a Buccilli’s that’s now relocated and thriving in Houghton Lake, and Aunt Nancy added the West Branch outpost. In 2008, Marc and Shari purchased the Clare original—which had moved from the south to north end of town in the early ’80s and expanded further in 1997—from Mary Lee. (In 1988, Pat had sold the Clare and Farwell locations to Mary Lee and opened another Buccilli’s Pizza in Grayling, where he worked until passing away in 1996.) Also in 1988, Andrea Buccilli purchased the Farwell pizzeria. “It’s truly a family business,” Shari says. “All of the kids helped out before they got to high school, even if they were just making boxes on a busy Friday night. Mary used to pay them a penny a box.”
Offering carryout, delivery and dine-in to a town of just over 3,000, Buccilli’s celebrates 50 years in 2023 with a legacy of giving back to the community, a hands-on approach to business ownership, and food that remains top-quality despite rising costs. “We’re blessed with the staff we have right now—staff is really important—and the customers are very much like family, too,” Shari says. “We’ve had one guy coming in for 40 years. That means a lot. With the quality of food we offer, how involved we stay in the community, great service to every customer who comes in, and a well-maintained facility, people come back. It’s hard work, but I’m proud of the family and the family name. People may grow up here and move away, but when they visit again, this is the first place they come.”
Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of PizzaVegan.com.