Casey's HistoryCasey's was founded by Iowan Dan Lamberti in 1959, when he leased a Des Moines country store from his dad and remodeled it as a convenience store. Shortly thereafter, Dan's friend and supplier Kurvin C. Fish (K.C., get it?) suggested that Dan purchase the Square Deal Oil Company, a small gas station in Boone, Iowa, which Dan converted to a convenience store/gas station. The chain grew steadily, opening stores in small midwestern towns, but didn't become pizza-fied for twenty-five years. Casey's went public in October, 1983 and added pizza to its menu in December, 1984. Since then, their self-proclaimed "made from scratch" pizza has become a prime product for Casey's General Store. Oh, they also make their own donuts.
Our Casey's experienceWe pulled our motorhome into the Casey's lot on Rte. 146 in Grinnell, Iowa, looking for gas at a decent price. Remembering that Casey's is a major player among pizza chains (#5 in the U.S. according to Pizza Marketing Quarterly), Lillian, encouraged by a spirit of adventure, suggested we try some. Cary, inspired by hunger, agreed.
Casey's General Store looks like just about every other convenience store in America, except for the little extension into "Casey's Kitchen," where Cary ordered a medium-sized cheese pizza. While waiting, Cary picked up a couple of sodas - oops, we mean 'pops' - and stepped outside to relieve Lillian of the dog-walking duties.
About ten minutes later, we were handed our pizza box.
Cary was intrigued by the little icon in the lower right corner of the box, and the side panel:
What else would they use? Especially in the Midwest?
We took the boxed pizza out to the motorhome, hungry enough to eat chain pizza.
It looked promising, in a "what the heck, we're not in New York" kinda way. It tasted... chewy. The cheese - "Casey's Pizza Cheese" - was chewy. Lillian found the dough more than chewy - it was gummy and undercooked, but had a pretty good flavor. The sauce was sweet, but not bad - considering it was made from tomato paste. Overall, the taste was well balanced among the three elements - dough, sauce and cheese.
This was, Cary thought, the kind of pizza just made for late night college-type munchies: lots of carbohydrates, lots of chew, enough flavor to keep one awake. Cheap, filling, and consistent.
In short, chain pizza.
Casey's General Store, Casey's Carry-Out Pizza, about 1700 locations in eleven states. www.caseys.com
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