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New owner reopens Cloquet's Casino Pizza and Sub Shop

After being closed for less than a month, Casino Pizza and Sub Shop will open again with a new owner and see its 40-year anniversary.

People getting pizza restaurant ready to open
Casino Pizza and Sub Shop owners Jill Rousseau and Gregg Wait stand near the large neon sign on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at the restaurant in Cloquet. They plan to have the restaurant open for business later in the week.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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CLOQUET — Despite closing its doors in January, Casino Pizza, 7 13th St. North, will reopen under a new owner Thursday, Feb. 3.

Gregg Wait, a Cloquet native, bought the business from previous owner Frank Gothard and plans to keep the business the way it was.

Rebecca Center started Crumbles three years ago after she moved to Cloquet and had her daughter, and the business has been busy ever since.

If you asked Wait last week if he would own a restaurant, the answer would have been no, until his friend told him about Casino Pizza being for sale.

“I have always wanted a pizza place, and this kind of fell in my lap,” he said. “It was perfect timing.”

One new addition Wait is excited to bring to Casino Pizza is a delivery service, and he thinks it will be a welcome addition.

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Longtime customers of Casino Pizza shouldn’t be worried about menu changes as Wait said he plans to keep everything the same, while adding cheese curds and jalapeno poppers to the list of appetizers.

The same recipes and methods will be used to make the food as Casino Pizza has a detailed method in place, even down to how many pepperonis go on each pizza.

“Everything was written right down … they got a really good system up there,” he said. “Since everybody knows it, you are not starting from scratch.”

People getting pizza restaurant ready to open
Holding onto a cream soda, Jeremy Fierst , left, talks with Casino Pizza and Sub Shop owner Gregg Wait on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at the restaurant in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Prices at Casino Pizza will also stay roughly the same. Wait does not want to increase prices by more than 25 to 50 cents on any one item, but with rising costs for goods, it is something he will work out as time goes by.

Wait has experience in the food industry as he owns a couple of concession trailers and was interested in owning a brick and mortar business.

“I don’t really want to drive (the trailers) around anymore,” he said. “I want to stay close by the house.”

Customers voiced their sadness over the pizza place’s closure on its Facebook page and said how much they would miss the business.

“Everybody knows it, before we bought it I didn’t know they closed until the other day,” Wait said. “Everybody talks about how they miss the place.”

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Keeping Casino Pizza around in some fashion was something Gothard wanted for the business.

When Gothard closed Casino Pizza in January, he said it wasn't because the business wasn’t profitable, but because it wasn’t working for his family.

His girlfriend and her son ran the day-to-day operations of the business and it bled into their personal lives.

Several local businesses open, expanded their offerings or welcomed new ownership in the past year.

Along with that, the pandemic, staffing shortages and inflation all played a part in the decision to close.

Gothard also considered raising prices to remain profitable and didn’t want to do that to the customers.

“We didn’t feel like raising our prices crazily,” he said. “In hindsight they should have been raised day one.”

Gothard had owned Casino Pizza since January 2021, when he bought the business from the original owners who started it in 1983.

With Casino Pizza so close to its 40-year anniversary, Gothard said he felt guilty about closing it.

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“Who else has been here that long?” he asked. “People want it to be around."

In the short time since Wait has bought Casino Pizza, he has already heard from previous customers who are happy someone has taken over and plans to bring it back.

Wait is unsure yet if they will need to add more staff or exactly what the hours of the store will be.

He plans to be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with longer hours on Friday and Saturday night.

People getting pizza restaurant ready to open
A large neon sign hangs in Casino Pizza & Sub Shop on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at the restaurant in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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