Organ Stop Pizza
More than 300,000 customers annually come for the pipes and stay for the pizza at this destination entertainment venue in Arizona, boasting the world’s largest theatre organ.
Organ Stop Pizza opened in Phoenix in 1972, when theatre organist Bill Brown decided to marry his musical calling with his favorite food, pizza. In 1975, he expanded with a location in Mesa and another in Tucson in 1977. When he decided to leave the business in ’85, he sold off the two then-remaining locations in Phoenix and Mesa—the latter sold partially to Mike Everitt, who had a passion for theatre organ and took the restaurant to the next level. “I started in 1985, when I was in high school, and the Mesa location was doing really well,” recalls Jack Barz, manager and now co-owner with Brad Bishop and Pat Rowan. “It sat 350 people, and the organ was half the size it is now, but business continued to improve—we were at full capacity every night and, by the early ’90s, started building the location we’re in now.”
In 1995, Organ Stop’s current location opened in Mesa: a whopping 18,000 square feet (Arizona’s largest freestanding restaurant) with seating for 700 and 46’ ceilings to accommodate the largest Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ ever created—with 6,000-plus pipes, it’s valued at $6 million. On opening day, half-mile-long lines formed to enter, and customers still flock to the restaurant, to the tune of more than 300,000 per year, from all over Arizona and the world. “We have music every night—we’re closed only Thanksgiving and Christmas—and our lunch hours are private parties only, for groups of 50 or more people,” Barz says. “At dinner, we have an organist playing 45 minutes of music every hour, based solely on requests from customers, so the music changes every night.”
With dozens of employees serving hundreds of hungry patrons nightly, Organ Stop’s operations are set up for speed, simplicity and satisfaction: Customers order at the counter in the lobby, and pizzas piled with toppings spread to the outer edge cook quickly in gas conveyor ovens.
Meanwhile, community outreach remains a priority—in addition to working with local schools year-round, a Christmas in July campaign finds the venue decked out in holiday decor, with a discount for customers who bring food or cash donations to benefit the local food bank. “We do advertise through social media, but most is word-of-mouth—we’re constantly in the spotlight on local news channels,” Barz says. “We often receive awards for the best family restaurant in the Valley, and we just received an award from the American Theatre Organ Society for promoting the art form of theatre organ to the masses. There are a lot of theatre organs throughout the country, but more people see ours than any theater in the world!”
Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of PizzaVegan.com.