Cameron native (and Hillsdale resident) Teri Crites opened Uptown Pizza, in Barron, in August 2000 after purchasing the business from former owner Connie Field.
“It had been closed for six months,” she said in an interview on Monday, July 15, 2019. “It was a small business, it was for sale, and I wanted to stay in the area.”
Over the next two decades, Crites worked hard to build the business, using her expertise in restaurant management (at) “Norske Nook, Kentucky Fried Chicken and, before that, Eau Claire,” she said. “I’ve done this work since I was 21.”
But Crites decided to close her business last Saturday, just days short of its 19th anniversary.
“Once the word got around that we were closing, we got a pretty good crowd here,” she said.
Along with the closure went 14 full- and part-time jobs, as well as an important small business presence in downtown Barron.
There has been a pizzeria in the building for several decades, she said. In 2012, Crites got a letter from a family now living in Parkersburg, Iowa. With it was a Barron News-Shield clipping from June 1983 that announced the opening of a pizza place at the Uptown location. Before it later became Uptown Pizza, the place was also known as Empire Pizza, she added.
Crites has been an active member of a committee seeking to revive business activity and restore old buildings along La Salle Avenue and throughout the city’s downtown core.
“We were trying so hard to bring more business downtown, but here I am,” she said.
Crites said she hopes the downtown revival effort continues.
“If you don’t have much to offer it’s too easy to go to another town,” she said.
Asked if her decision had anything to do with a competitor (Domino’s Pizza) coming to Barron, Crites declined to comment.
“We need everybody who’s here,” she said. “You need the whole community to survive. As a small business owner, I found that out.”
Running a successful small business had its challenges and rewards, Crites said.
The challenge came from needing to be on site, at some time or other, seven days a week.
“As a small business owner, I couldn’t afford to hire a manager,” she said.
But, on the other hand, “the rewards were that I could make it to most of my kids’ activities, by setting my own hours while they were growing up.”
Her family includes her husband, Greg, who works at Thomas Precision, Inc., in Rice Lake, a grown son, Justis Hagberg, and a daughter, Sierra Tatroe, who will be a high school senior this fall.
As a restaurateur, Crites said she enjoyed experimenting with different recipes – such as “a bacon cheeseburger pizza with pickles – it was our own creation and it sold well. We also added a chicken pizza for the Somali community.”
During her tenure as owner, Crites used a federal loan program to make improvements in the building, too.
“We added more indoor seating and an extra oven to accommodate larger orders,” she said.
The remodeled building also has an upstairs apartment, a ramp accessible for the disabled, and outside seating. Crites, who owns the building and its contents, said she is selling off everything, including the building and fixtures.