When delicious pizza Owner Sang Kyoo Kwak died suddenly of lung cancer in 2019, which left his family in shock.
“Just two weeks, we learned that he had lung cancer…he passed away,” his wife, Mi Hee An, said. were very sad.”
For nearly 20 years, the South Korean immigrant family operated the Granger pizza business located in the nondescript mall across from St. Pius Church along Indiana 23, where they made pizzas , breadsticks and calzones. Kwak was in charge of operations with his daughter Alice Kwak saying her father’s first job in America was working at a pizza place and “pizza has been what has sustained and supported my family all these years since.”
Earlier this year:Paddy Shack Ice Cream in Granger is moving next door
Now, after his death, Widow An had a choice to make: keep the pizza business going or shut it down.
“I didn’t want to work here anymore, because I missed him very (a lot) and so I wanted to close,” she said.
An admits she didn’t know much about the craft, let alone how to make pizza, but with some encouragement she decided to give it a shot.
“We are very lucky because I wanted to close because I was sad,” she said. “But my two daughters and the whole community and neighbors encouraged me to work here (to honor my husband’s memory).”
For two years, the family kept the pizza business going at 15017 Indiana 23, adding dishes like spaghetti pizza to honor Kwak, who cooked the dish for his daughters when they were younger. Soon, running the business became something An had become more confident about.
“With each passing day in the pizzeria, you could see (my mother’s) confidence grow,” Alice said. “There was a sense of leisure, of pride that you could visibly see over time, and eventually the shop she once opened out of duty, the very shop she was so afraid of, became one one of the few things that gives him great joy today.”
When Paddy Shack Ice Creamwho shared part of the space, have moved into their own premises next door, An considered renting the extra room from another company, but decided it was time to add her own twist. While honoring her husband’s memory for maintaining Yummy Pizza, An opened a small cafe next to the pizzeria in May.
“A cafe is a cozy place and I wanted to create that,” she said.
Open the same hours as the pizzeria, the cafe offers breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pastries, and specialty drinks such as espresso coffees and smoothies. But An has also incorporated popular elements from her own culture, such as croffles, a pastry consisting of a dense crescent dough pressed into a waffle shape that can be topped with 12 different varieties of fruits, candies and sweets. a good portion of whipped cream; boba tea, a sweetened iced tea with fluffy tapioca balls that comes in a variety of flavors; and Korean sweets sold in a small market near the cafe.
“One of the things that makes my mom’s business really unique is the integration of cultural influences into its operating model,” Alice said. “…It’s one of the ways she learned to make work fun for her. She enjoys sharing her culture and heritage with others and has met people from a variety of backgrounds through this passion.”
When customers walk into Yummy Pizza now, An said, they’re a bit surprised to see the new cafe. Instead of ordering from the Yummy Pizza kitchen, customers can now order from the cafe to make everything easier. An said she planned to open the cafe earlier in the day, but said she wanted operations to run smoothly and have enough staff in place before doing so.
“I had planned to start at 7 a.m., but that was just me, so I was very, very tired,” she said. “So I’ll think about it when I have more employees and they’re trained for it.”
But overall, Alice said, strength, her mother’s ingenuity and the unwavering support of the community kept the business going.
“What I find so inspiring is how she turned loneliness into strength and empowerment,” Alice said. “And I couldn’t be prouder.”
Yummy Pizza and cafe is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Contact Mary Shown at 574-235-6244 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @maryshownSBT and @marketbasketSBT.