Villagers have another restaurant choice after The Big Cheese opened in Village Square.
The new restaurant is headed by Peter Yeaple, with help from funding by Bishop Construction representatives Andre Bishop and Jeff Riffey. Yeaple officially scheduled a grand opening for Monday, but the restaurant had been operating since Aug. 15.
“I think normally with a soft opening you plan on doing half of the business that you’re going to do normally because you don’t offer a full menu,” Yeaple said. “We’ve been busy from open to close pretty much every day, so that’s good.
“... I worked for a pizza place for a little while — I moved here from New York in 2004 — and one of the big things I noticed was there’s not a lot of good pizza places,” he added. “So when I moved down here I worked for Coke for 12 years and then a buddy of mine was like, ‘Hey, you want to help me with my pizza place?’ So I went and helped him and then me and him went our separate ways. Well, I came up and I was talking to Andre and he was like, ‘If your dream is to run a pizza place, how about I help fund the pizza place?’”
Coming from an Italian home in New York, he said someone was always referred to as “the Big Cheese,” which is how the restaurant name came to be.
“Another reason that Big Cheese was a thing, I’m like the king of dad jokes,” Yeaple said. “So I tell dad jokes, I’m the cheesiest as they get. So for me I like to smile and love to have a good time and want everybody around me to have a good time. The times that people laugh the most and have the best time is when you’re telling jokes and when you’re eating. You can make anybody happy by eating, by cooking good food. That’s why I work all the time to make the homemade pesto and other stuff to try to have it where it’s a little bit of everybody that can eat.”
The business allows Yeaple to turn a passion into a way to earn a living.
“When I would get home from work I would cook and I was like, ‘Ah man, this is awesome’,” he said. “I like to do it. After that people would ask me to make meatballs and I’d make meatballs for them and dough and bread. I make my own bread at home. ... When I found out that making bread was essentially making pizza dough, I said, ‘Well, I can make pretty good bread. Let’s try making pizza dough.’ ... The big thing for me at first was that am I going to ruin cooking by doing it all day? But no, it makes me happy and also to make other people happy.”
What makes a good pizza falls largely on the sauce used, he said.
“Your sauce, your cheese and the crust,” Yeaple said. “The crust to me is very important, that’s why I take a lot of time to home make it. I tried to buy other dough, like store-bought, and it’s just not the same. I feel like a lot of them I taste, for me I don’t taste a lot of homemade dough. For me a lot of it’s like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, you can tell it’s processed and bought. That was what for me was making my own dough and that’s what makes the crust. I put about a 4-ounce ladle on an 18-inch pizza.”
Yeaple gets to work at 7:30 a.m. to get ready for opening at 11 a.m. The Big Cheese offers pizza, deli sandwiches, salads, stromboli and spaghetti.
“Usually there’s times where we open and I’m like, ‘Oh, I got to finish doing this’,” he said with a laugh. “So it’s usually that. Some days are different than others. If it’s a slower day and I don’t have to make as much dough, I try not to over-prepare. I like everything to be as fresh as possible. This dough that I made here, I had been selling every day so I’ve been making twice a day and then I sell out by the end of the day.”
There are challenges being a first-time business owner, including finding people willing to work.
“To try to compensate people for what they do, plus not lose on the back end,” Yeaple said. “I’ve learned a lot about pricing. I feel like anytime you look at a menu and you look at the price of something, you don’t realize everything that goes into making that price. You have to break everything down. Everything I did I had to break down to an ounce. What does an ounce of flour cost? What does one minute of my time cost? What does one minute of this person’s time cost? It was a lot of work to do that and then also make it to where I can make it cheap and not lose out. It was actually a fun process, you wouldn’t think it would be. It’s been long hours, spending 70-80 hours a week to try to get to where I’m at now.”
Despite the long hours, The Big Cheese has fulfilled a dream.
“I feel like everybody has, right? Everybody’s dreamed of owning a business before,” he said. “It’s not everybody that you get the opportunity. It’s been nice for me to start this and try it out and hopefully I’m making everybody will be happy.”
Riffey has seen the community welcome the new restaurant.
“As soon as the doors were open they were pretty much waiting to get in the door,” Riffey said. “They have been ever since. It’s a really great turnout. I’m shocked. ... Truth be told, the largest portion of our business comes from carry out. ... I actually had one guy from New York tell me this is the closest New York-style pizza he’s ever gotten outside of New York.”
The Big Cheese is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Hours may vary, Yeaple said. Plans are to offer delivery after 4 p.m.
For more information, visit www.bcheese.net.