Owners Jason and Shannon Pryor met in 1999 while working for Amazon.com; Shannon in Seattle and Jason in Atlanta. When it was obvious this was to be a long-term relationship Shannon relocated to Atlanta to be closer to Jason. Shortly thereafter the couple moved back to Shannon's hometown of Kansas City and settled in Brookside where Jason went to work for Costco.
Jason noticed the old gas station up for sale on the corner of 51st and Oak. He was convinced it was a perfect location for a college pizza joint.
The development of Pizza 51 began in October of 2002, almost 2 years before the restaurant finally opened. Major hurdles included obtaining a liquor license, completing environmental testing to verify the safety of serving food from an old gas station and securing a loan. As Jason worked to get all the required pieces in order, the couple became pregnant and were due with their first child, Rachel Diane, in February of 2004. Joshua Kester joined the family in April of 2006, and our latest addition Edyn Mae joined us in July of 2010.
As Shannon's maiden name would suggest, Murphy's Law set in and roughed up the road to a completed Pizza 51 but undaunted by challenge, the couple forged ahead. In March of 2004 they closed on the building and along with their contractor, G3 Collaborative, began the renovation work.
Pizza 51 opened its doors to a hungry public on September 15, 2004. Since then Pizza 51 has become an integral part of the Brookside and South Plaza neighborhoods. What was conceived as a college hangout, has been welcomed as a great place to eat by neighbors of all ages.
Jason and Shannon Pryor are active members of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association with Jason serving as President in 2008 and 2009 and serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Restaurant Association. Pizza 51 is also proud to be members of and participate with the Southtown Council and the South Plaza Neighborhood Associations. Jason currently serves as a board of director for the Countryside Neighborhood Association. Jason also served on the Food Advisory Board for the Kansas City Health Department as an industry representative. Pizza 51 was recognized in 2011 with the Grade A Food Excellence award for demonstrating excellence in compliance with the city's food code. Jason currently serves as cochair and Mayor's representative on the Neighborhood & Tourism Development Fund.
It may seem with all this activity the couple would not have a moment to spare, but during 2008 and 2009 they began plugging away on the behind the scenes details to investigate, secure, and soon open a second location. While Jason and Shannon were alone the first time they met in hard hats, the entire family got in on the action. Their oldest daughter, Rachel, was 7 months old when Pizza 51 opened its first doors; fast forward seven years later and their youngest, Edyn, was nearly the same age when Pizza 51 West became operational. Pizza 51 West opened on September 27, 2011 with a very warm welcome to the people of Fairway, Prairie Village and other neighboring areas. Pizza 51 West is similar to the original Pizza 51 location in that it is housed in a converted gas station, at the corners of 60th and Mission Road in Fairway, Kansas. This location benefits from the heavy traffic that flows along Mission Road and the densely populated neighborhoods surrounding the area. The most notable difference between the original Pizza 51 and Pizza 51 West is the offering of morning coffee, breakfast pizzas, skillets and pastries. Having partnered with The Roasterie Coffee Company and The Clock Tower Bakery, Pizza 51 West proudly serves quality and delicious products from its full service coffee bar, with items to accommodate morning coffee or dessert after lunch or dinner.
In 2012, the Pryor's were approached by long-time friends who were exploring the possibility of renovating an historic building downtown. The 1881 structure, known as the Cosby Hotel, was days away from demolition when new ownership committed to restore it to it's previous glory. With Jon Gerner, long experienced with Grand Street Cafe, Westside Local, and Free State Brewery, his front-of-house experience partnered with the Pryors' pizza experience, lead to the re-opening of the Milwaukee Deli. Considered to be Kansas City's first deli, the Milwaukee Deli operated in the current space from 1901-1930. After meticulous restoration and assistance from the Downtown Council and Landmark Credits, the 1881 architectural details were revealed to the public on November 20th, 2013. Upon visiting the Milwaukee Deli, you will find your favorite pizza along with house-cured and smoked deli offerings as well as made-from-scratch side items, soups and desserts.