Hamilton pizzeria purchased by owner of nearby pinball business

All8Up will undergo remodeling and have expanded kitchen, seating area.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Pinball Garage owner Brad Baker is expanding his Hamilton investment by buying a North Third Street staple.

On Wednesday, Baker signed sales documents to purchase All8Up next door to his bar and arcade. There will be changes to the restaurant, but the core menu, the employees, and the name of the restaurant are not part of the changes.

“We’ll probably do some updated branding and update the logo, to try to incorporate our whole vision with pizza, barbecue, wings, all that together,” said Baker, who opened Pinball Garage four years ago, adding that everyone who works at All8Up will remain.

Tony and Kathy Brown own All8Up, and Tony Brown will stay on board to help with the transition, and Baker said, “One of our biggest goals is to preserve the menu that Tony and Kathy created.” Baker said he’s already added to his staff in anticipation of the sale, and for the past two weeks, his staff has trained with Tony.

Brown said he was excited about Baker keeping the menu that’s been in his family for nearly three decades.

“It’s been in my family for 27 years, we’ve been producing pretty much the same menu at three different places,” he said. “I’m glad somebody wants to carry that on. I’m excited about that.”

Baker said what most excites him about the All8Up acquisition is to have delivery service for the restaurant’s signature pizzas and hoagies, but also his barbecue and wings, “which is really going to be unique.”

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

Tony said when he leaves the restaurant, he won’t be retiring but rather just doing something else.

“I’ve been doing it for nine years, and I’ve always appreciated what the community’s done for me, and we’ve grown the business every year up to a point where we could sell it,” he said. “I haven’t had a family life or anything outside of here for nine years.”

His immediate plan is to spend more time with his co-owner and wife, Kathy, and their 16-year-old son. Eventually, he’ll find another job that will be significantly fewer hours than the 92 he’s worked for nearly a decade.

“I have options,” but said he’ll take time to think about his next move once he leaves. Brown said he could return to the classroom as a math teacher, take up coaching or soccer or basketball again, or maybe open a lunch-only place to sell “the best hamburger in town” but work just 30 hours a week.

“Anything but being a professional poker player, my wife told me,” he said with a laugh.

Eventually, there will be a remodeling process, which includes expanding the kitchen area and utilizing the other half of the building at 23 N. Third St. Right now, that side is used for private parties and events, but Baker said they’ll add a small bar and dining room seating. They’ll be taking part of the existing dining room to accommodate the expansion of the kitchen.

“The current kitchen area, we plan to expand that and make it bigger, and put a bigger hood in to accommodate our smoker and our fryers,” said Baker, who offers food on limited days that’s made on his food truck, Brisketology. While the kitchen is big enough to accommodate All8Up’s current menu, it won’t be for the expansion of that menu.

The city still needs to approve plans for the remodeling and expansion, but the plan is not to make this a duplication of Pinball Garage, but Baker said he plans to have a small bar with several beers on tap.

“Nothing like at Pinball Garage, but when you go to LaRosa’s, you might have a beer,” he said. “We’re trying not to go too overboard because we don’t have as much space; we’re not trying to get too crazy. There’s only so much space there.”

The purchase is a “natural progression” of Baker’s mission, said the 2021 Hamilton Citizen of the Year, who’s expanding his investment into the city with the purchase of All8Up and leasing 5,000 square feet in Spooky Nook to create the Champion Mill Arcade.

“It gives me a nice piece of property that we’ll be able to operate for a long time,” he said. “We’ll be able to update it, modernize it, tailor it to our own style. We’re not trying to mimic Pinball Garage, it’s not going to have any similar vibe, but it’s an Italian pizza place that will also have really amazing smoked wings and barbecue.”

The remodel will be dependent on when permits are secured from the city, and the design is unknown at this time, but Baker said it will be is “family-friendly like everything we do.”

“We’re really looking to expand and improve on our whole menu and be creative with our cooks on staff,” he said. “We do some crazy stuff on the food truck, so I’m really excited to see what we’ll be able to do with more food offerings for local folks.”

Baker said he’s buying All8Up “at its peak,” saying 2022 was one of the restaurant’s best years since opening in 2014.

“We’re taking it over at a really great time with Spooky Nook coming online, and we’re planning to do a fast-track program to be able to get pizzas or barbecue over to Spooky really fast,” said Baker, adding that eventually, they’ll have a dedicated deliverer whose sole job is to run pizza, wings, and barbecue orders to the megacomplex. “If people are ordering, we’re going to be delivering. There will be plenty of food at Spooky Nook, but there might not be enough to keep up with the giant masses and crowds, or maybe they’ve already had something there and they’re looking for something different. We’re hoping to capitalize on the insane amount of hungry people that’s going to be walking around.”

Brown said he appreciates the support the community’s given him and his wife since they opened.

“Being a small place that never advertised, and I think we’re one of the most popular places in towns,” he said. “It’s been a real thrill to grow with downtown. We came in when there was nothing else here. It’s a shame I ran out of the energy to try to expand my place, but I’m glad for someone like Brad―who has high ambitions, big goals, and big dreams―who can turn this into what my main goal was from the beginning.”

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