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Willy Theisen back in the Godfather's Pizza business, this time as a franchisee

Willy Theisen back in the Godfather's Pizza business, this time as a franchisee


It’s been nearly 40 years since Willy Theisen sold off the Godfather’s Pizza empire he founded. Now he’s returning to those roots, except this time he’s a franchisee setting up a single pizza parlor in a hot and developing pocket of west Omaha.

Theisen, who turns 75 this month, calls it his boomerang venture.


Willy Theisen, the founder of Godfather's Pizza, at the new location near 180th and West Dodge in Omaha.

“I threw it as far and hard as I could,” he said. “And it’s like that old saying, 'What goes around comes around.'”

Ron Gartlan, Godfather’s current president and CEO, welcomed Theisen. “He has always been and continues to be a part of our Godfather’s Pizza family. This new venture is just one more chapter in his successful business pursuits.”

Theisen, a longtime entrepreneur, has delved into various restaurant and investment projects, including the 2009 launch of Pitch Pizzeria, since he made millions in the 1983 Godfather’s sale. Theisen later sold his controlling interest in Pitch and said in an interview last week that the new Godfather’s store will be his only currently operating restaurant.

He said his return to the Godfather’s network was cinched when he landed a spot on one end of a new 17,000-square-foot commercial strip off West Dodge Road and 180th Street, at 18101 Chicago St. (That’s west of Village Pointe shopping center.)

Cindi Cisar Incontro of Colliers International, who is helping to lease the Block 180 Retail building, said all but one of the eight bays are called for, even as parts have yet to be completed.

An adjacent 32,000-square-foot office building, also owned by Broadmoor Development, is a few months from opening in the area where other new office and hotel buildings recently have sprouted.

The 2,000-square-foot Godfather’s store will employ about 20 people and open May 20, at first during the evenings. Theisen said business hours will expand later.

It’ll have a half-dozen tables for on-site dining, and will focus on takeout and catering. The shop has a pickup window.

“This building, in an up-and-coming area, was perfect. It came at the right time,” Theisen said.

Godfather’s Pizza has expanded to more than 1,079 locations nationwide in more than 40 states. Fifty sites are in Nebraska.

“I can't get the smile off my face,” said Theisen. “I’m pretty happy about the way the project turned out.”

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