Manager shares memories as crews demolish downtown Shakespeare\'s

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COLUMBIA - Shakespeare's manager Kurt Mirtsching built a life inside the walls of Shakespeare's Pizza in downtown Columbia. Mirtsching watched from the patio of a nearby bar Wednesday as demolition began on the beloved Columbia pizza joint.

Shakespeare's management announced April 1 - in what many thought was an April Fool's Day joke - the pizza shop at the corner of Ninth and Elm Streets would be demolished and rebuilt as a multi-story building to include housing. Shakespeare's will be the first floor tenants when it moves into the new building in 2016.

While countless people have memories inside the Ninth and Elm Street space - as well in the two additional locations in south and west Columbia - employees like Mirtsching have spent decades serving up slices and welcoming mid-Missouri into their eclectic second home.

"I've made peace with the whole process a long time ago," he said. "Right now we want to get going, move forward and get the process of building the new building going because the new one is going to be really, really cool."

The Shakespeare's team said it is working carefully with its developers, Trittenbach Construction, to maintain as much as original pieces and atmosphere in the new building as possible.

"They've been very accommodating and very helpful and going way above and beyond what I think developers normally do for tenants," Mirtsching said.

But Shakespeare's is more than the brick and mortar for Mirtsching. He joined the Shakespeare's family after he grew tired of washing dishes in his dorm cafeteria in 1978. They needed a driver and he needed a job. He started out delivering pizzas in a '65 Pontiac and worked his way up the ranks to manager.

He would later hire the woman who would become his wife.

"I was manager at that point - I had only been manager for a little while - and this really good-looking gal came walking in the door. She had one of those 80s headbands on," he said.

The Mirtschings celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary Tuesday.

"You can name any emotion and a part of me and everyone else is experiencing it," Mirtsching said as the crews worked to tear down the north end of the space Wednesday. "There's anger, there's regret, but there's also happiness. We're really looking forward to the new restaurant."

He said the floor plan in the new space should be very similar to what diners have seen over the last forty years.

"You walk in the front door and there will be the glass wall to your left where they're making the pizzas," he described. "Brick walls to the right where the dining room is and then right ahead of you those same counters we'll be back in the same spot where you order your pizza."

Teams will install pieces of the tin ceiling, as well as the original furniture, ovens and cabinets for the soda machines in the new building. Crews also removed the wood siding to be used in the new location's construction. The infamous "Liquor guns & ammo" sign will be returned to its spot as well.

Mirtsching said it's been an emotional time for him and the rest of the Shakespeare's crew, but that they've done their best to make what he called the "Tempspeare's" experience as close to the original as possible.

"The same people are there. The same ovens are there. The same pizza is there. In about 14 months, we're going to be in a brand new box that we hope is going to be real close to the same thing."

Wednesday's demolition was scheduled to last several hours.

KOMU 8 News tweeted throughout Wednesday morning alongside Mirtsching as he watched the demolition.