Robert Leucht was the first in town to offer a pizza buffet

This Kentucky pizzeria went from humble beginnings to 50-plus years of success, thanks to innovation, attention to quality and a can-do attitude.

Robert Leucht didn’t know much about the pizza business when he opened PizzAroma ( in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1963. What’s more, the locals didn’t really know pizza either. But with a recipe and “junk equipment” from a co-worker who owned a pizzeria in Evansville, Indiana, he opened shop with the bare minimums: two tables, no air conditioning—not even a vented hood. “We started out of desperation, not knowing any better,” recalls Leucht, laughing. “We were so naive, we believed we couldn’t fail.”

PizzAroma's group of employees were handling large crowds in the early ‘70s

The first year, service was slow; one week, PizzAroma made less than $400. Luckily, business soon began to surge, and after less than a decade, the pizzeria was raking in a massive $9,000 per week. Customers initially warmed to its pizza through word-of-mouth, but PizzAroma was no slouch in the innovations department: Leucht offered delivery, a drive-up window, chicken wings and a pizza buffet before anyone else in town. And the pizzeria was—and still is—open 365 days a year. “We always did whatever it took, and we still never take a customer or our longevity for granted,” says Leucht. “We’re a tradition here because people can rely on us; we’re proud of our high quality, and we’ll never cheapen our product.”

Terry Schrecker assembles a pizza in the early ‘70s

And there’s one more thing Leucht says he won’t ever do: retire. Though his wife, Mary Ann, and her daughter offer significant support for PizzAroma’s two locations, the 82-year-old founder believes the business keeps him going strong when others are ready for the rocking chair. But he also knows that running a successful pizzeria takes serious dedication, and he remains every bit as humble as his pizzeria’s roots. “It ain’t that easy, but I’ve been fortunate to make more right decisions than wrong ones,” Leucht says. “If I’d have to go make a delivery tonight, I’d do it. We don’t have any specialists around here; you have to be willing to do everything. That’s always been our attitude.” —Tracy Morin

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