Yankton residents traveling in Sioux Falls will have a home away from home as Charlie’s Pizza is set to open a new location there early next year.
The new Sioux Falls location of Charlie’s Pizza is slated to open in February 2022 at 6213 S. Old Village Plaza in southern Sioux Falls.
“It’ll be almost a mirror image of the Yankton (restaurant),” Chuck Rezac, the owner of the Yankton location told the Press & Dakotan. “It’s just a little different because the space is different, but it’s got about the same amount of seating and it’s going to be the same menu.”
Also, Rezac is doing all he can to make sure that the pizza is the same.
“I found out that the flavor comes from the actual pans we cook on,” he said. “For the last year, we’ve been seasoning pans in the old oven, so we have the seasoning from the old oven in the pans for the new place.”
Also, Charlie’s pizzas are traditionally slow cooked, he said.
“The pizzas will still be 25-30 minutes, if we’re not busy,” Rezac said. “That’s also what gives it the flavor.”
When Rezac bought Charlie’s Pizza six years ago, he owned the Chuck Stop next door, but said he knew nothing about the restaurant business.
“I just kind of knew the owner of Charlie’s at the time, and it was always my favorite restaurant even when I was a kid — I grew up here,” Rezac said. “I kind of hassled him about selling it to me and, eventually, he cracked.”
Rezac said he dragged his buddies in to work for him with the promise that, as the business changed and grew, so would their roles.
“This (new location) gives me the opportunity to give them more responsibility and thank them for what they’ve done for me for the last six years,” he said.
Having a Charlie’s in Sioux Falls isn’t a new idea. It’s really a new take on an old idea, because at one time, Sioux Falls had its own Charlie’s Pizza.
The Yankton Charlie’s Pizza, South Dakota’s first and oldest operating pizza parlor, was first opened in 1959 by the original owner, Charlie Chotto. The unique restaurant has since become a local icon, with its signature mural of Marilyn Monroe on the exterior and its menu of celebrity-inspired pizza’s.
“The original (owner) had opened Charlie’s Pizzas in Huron, Mitchell, Vermillion, Sioux Falls, Yankton and a couple in Iowa,” said Rezac, who is now the fifth person who has owned the business. “Then, he sold them off pretty quickly, from what I understand, to various individuals.”
Charlie’s Pizza mostly sold beer with a 3.2% alcohol content, which, during the 1960s and ’70s, was legal for those ages 18-21. The establishment of a national minimum drinking age in 1984 ended that practice, and in the late 1980s, the Sioux Falls Charlie’s Pizza shuttered its doors.
“Yankton’s Charlie’s adapted to (be) family oriented, and that kept it alive,” Rezac said.
Since Rezac took over the business, Charlie’s Pizza was named the top pizza in South Dakota three times by the Food Network for its “Festus” pizza, which features pepperjack covered meatballs, jalapeno and sauerkraut. Prior to that, Charlie’s won the same award in 2011 and 2015.
The search for a location in Sioux Falls was partially inspired by the fact that Charlie’s Pizza had a history there, he said.
“My hope for Sioux Falls is to give them a restaurant that Yankton’s Charlie's has given me: a spot you want to go to, to come back to when you leave town or move away.”
Rezac said his goal is for the Sioux Falls location to have the same appeal without taking anything away from the Yankton location.
“I think there will always be something special about the Yankton Charlie’s Pizza,” he said.