GLASGOW — A “Heart Attack” cooked 500 degrees, for ten minutes. That’s what the doctor ordered.
Double pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, and extra cheese – all piled onto homemade dough on a bed of savory pizza sauce. A big boy’s “Arlie Special.”
Piping hot out of the 50-year-old oven, bubbling mozzarella, and an under crust with a crunch.
That’s a Eugene’s Pizza.
Established by original owner Eugene Barger in 1962. A short stint, it was sold to Arlie and Mary Sue Knodel in 1967, then purchased by son’s Jeff and Sam in 1992.
55 years of Knodel family ownership and Eugene’s Pizza has been crowned as the best pizza in the state on numerous occasions.
“It’s the care that we put into this place,” shared Sam Knodel, the present co-owner of Eugene’s Pizza. If caring for a product isn’t enough – of course, you must enjoy the product.
“I like pizza, I like to experiment with a lot of different pizzas.” Jeff Knodel explained.
Sam recalled on his time as a child eating pizza on a freezer in the back room. Many hours were spent in and out of the kitchen growing up. Their signature pizza sauce is in their blood. It all started with his late father, Arlie.
“He was just a seriously hard worker. I didn't see him that much growing up because he was always here… back then, the only day they were closed here was Monday. And then he bowled Monday night. My mom worked here. My dad worked here.” Sam said.
The credit goes to Mary Sue, the matriarch of the family. In her 80’s, it isn’t uncommon to see her working multiple hours at the parlor to this day.
“She just goes and goes and goes. She sees the little things that a lot of times Sam and I don't see,” laughed Jeff.
Sam added, “This place honestly would not work the way it does if it wasn’t for my brother, me, and my mom… She’s the backbone of this place.”
That love stretches far beyond their childhood and into working everyday with their mom. To the point they, might even get a little tired of each other.
“I love working with Mom. Sometimes she's a pain in the butt, but I'm probably a bigger pain in the butt for her,” Jeff chuckled and welted with tears, “I’m always harassing her, in fact she told me the other night, ‘Will you just go out front and leave me alone?’ We have a really good time.”
The orneriness comes from the heart.
“I love her.” Jeff said with emotion in his eyes.
Mary Sue does a little bit of everything. She cleans, makes the dough, and chops lettuce better than anyone.
It’s that extra mile that makes Eugene’s the best in Montana.
Explained Sam. “I think our secret, is our pizza sauce, which we make. I think it's our dough, which we make and then just the time and effort we put into it.”
The longest member of the kitchen staff reflected on the 55 years of care she and her husband put into the business.
“When we bought it, we didn't have any money. We had like $70 for the till. It was pretty rough. My husband cleaned for three years so that we didn't have to hire somebody to do our cleaning.”
Her husband Arlie passed away in 2010. A great provider and pie maker. Her life as a widow is guided by faith.
“You just go to the next step. You just do what you have to do, and you do it. It’s life.”
As Mary Sue, Jeff, and Sam grow older – the three are unsure of where the pizza parlor is headed. Who will run it? Who will put in the time and effort? Will it stay in the family?
Sam’s son, Max, may be the future of the business.
“I don't really want it to leave the family. Of course, there's other things that I want to do. But it's too important to me and it's too important to the community.” Max said.
For many small towns left in America, a watering hole for the high school crowds, that are positive environments are few and far between. Eugene’s was that place for Max. Spending many late nights after band concerts eating salad and pizza. Jeff shared that countless prom dates were had at Eugene’s, and a few wedding engagements.
“…it keeps kids out of trouble,” adding, “It’s been the family restaurant, the go to family restaurant in Glasgow,” exclaimed Max.
Max’s Uncle Jeff explained that he doesn’t want to see his children work as hard as he has in his life. The three all agreed that running the day-to-day operations was a job for more than one person to do it the right way. That a few, would need to step up.
Aside from the Knodel’s worries of the future. The customers are what make the hard work worth it.
Sam and Jeff mail pizza’s all over the United States, send pizza with traveling campers to Glacier Park, and others who get a hankering in Montana.
Mary Sue delivered a heartfelt message to their faithful customers, “I hope the town appreciates us as much as we appreciate them.”
If a reporter from Great Falls opinion is taken into consideration – Eugene’s Pizza is the best he’s had in the state of Montana.
Eugene’s Pizza is located off Highway 2, at 193 Klein Ave, Glasgow, MT 59230. If you call ahead of time and let Sam know you’re coming, he’ll make your pizza if he’s working. They have mailed Pizza to several of the lower 48 states and to U.S. territories.
Recently Distinctly Montana Magazine named Eugene’s as the best in Montana. Formerly, Montana Mint named it the best in back to back years.
Visit the website to view their menu that is nearly the same as the original, as well as merchandise, and other contact information.
Question or comments about this article? Email the reporter at email@example.com.