BLOOMINGTON — The popular Garcia's Pizza, which had five locations in Normal in the late 1970s, '80s and '90s, is returning to the Twin Cities.
"We're very excited," said Ralph Senn, who co-owns Garcia's with Joe Ream.
Senn said the Bloomington Garcia's will be located at 608 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington and is expected to open in late September or early October.
“I’m always thrilled to have new exciting businesses in downtown Bloomington,” said Mayor Tari Renner.
It will be the third pizza place for that location. Flingers Pizza closed in June 2013 after its six-year lease expired. Nick Hurley, who also owns Drifters Pub next door, opened D'Agostino's Pizza a couple of months later.
"I was always looking for a place (in Bloomington-Normal)," Senn said, adding he's had "hundreds" of customers come into his Champaign restaurant and order half-baked pizzas to take back to the Twin Cities. "I knew there was a big demand."
Senn heard Hurley was looking for a new restaurant for the space and the two connected.
"I picked up on it right away," Senn said, noting it's the perfect location — next to a bar and next to students — which is a perfect match to Garcia's idea to provide three meals a day: "lunch, dinner and midnight."
The Garcia's location will sell the popular pizza by the slice, three sizes of its traditional pan pizza (white or whole wheat crust) and stuffed pizza. A smaller "baby stuffed" will be offered at lunch. There also will be salads, bread sticks, cookies, soda and fruit drinks.
Customers can take the food to Drifter's and get a beer, he said.
Senn said that to "accommodate his neighbor," he also will continue Drifter's tradition of a Monday night chicken wing special.
Garcia's will be open seven days a week starting at 11 a.m. and closing an hour after the bars close. He expects to have between 10 and 12 employees. Delivery is expected to start at the end of the year.
While the Bloomington and Champaign stores are company-owned, Senn said Garcia's pizza also is available at a licensed store on Millikin University's campus in Decatur and at deli departments in County Markets in Champaign, Charleston, Rushville, Decatur and Springfield.
Garcia's opened restaurants in 1978 at 603 Dale St. and 1531 E. College Ave. in Normal. Both closed in December 1999. A smaller restaurant at Watterson Place closed in November 1993 after its lease expired. At one time, the restaurant employed about 100 people in the Twin Cities, mostly college students who worked part time.
Senn and Ream opened their first Garcia's restaurant in Champaign in 1971 and 17 other restaurants in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Texas. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 1998.