By Chianna Schoenthaler/ Ashley Schaerfl
ThunderZone Pizza and Taphouse officially opened for business during the grand opening of Thunder Village Aug. 28. ThunderZone is the first tenant to occupy ThunderVillage as well as the first taphouse to be in close proximity to campus.
ThunderZone Pizza and Taphouse owner Ryan Howard also owns Angelo’s Pizza, a local restaurant on the Pueblo Riverwalk. He is a huge fan of Buffalo Wild Wings and Old Chicago, however, he said he felt there was room for something more. He wanted the power to be able to change the menu and beers as he pleased.
“ThunderZone Pizza and Taphouse is the first tenant, and I know, as a staff member at CSU-Pueblo, I am thrilled to have a good place to eat lunch so close to campus,” Sommer Street, assistant director of external affairs, said.
Howard took the elements he loves about Buffalo Wild Wings and Old Chicago to create a business where all food is made in-house, to be locally owned, using green chili, gluten-free options, a variety of sandwich types and unique features such as a green chili ranch. Howard was joined by Chris Doose, who was brought on to be general manager of Thunderzone Pizza and Taphouse.
Doose has been in the restaurant industry for a while. He started at Buffalo Wild Wings as a cook and moved his way up. As he moved his way up, he obtained an associate degree from Pueblo Community College in hospitality management.
He has also held a variety of different management positions including Alamo Draft and the Yard House in Denver, The Shamrock and Old Chicago in Pueblo.
He reached out to Howard about being a manager at ThunderZone as it was still in the construction process. Doose found that they both shared the same philosophy on business.
“Definitely try and take it slow. Focus on the basic,” Doose said. Even though they both intend to focus on the basics, they have intentions to try out new recipes and beers.
Doose’s goal while being the general manager at ThunderZone is to be a beer expert by next year. He has always considered himself to be a beer geek. To set the goals to an even higher standard, he wants the restaurant to be the best taphouse in town by using beers to set a trend for the Pueblo community. “I’m not reacting to the market, I want to change the market,” Doose said.
When Doose took on this new endeavor many of the staff from former employers he worked for followed him.
“I use to work for Chris at Old Chicago. He is an excellent worker and even better boss,” Lisa Nickerson, a server at ThunderZone, said.
ThunderZone Pizza and Tap House has a mission to be there for the student body and community of Pueblo. “We are the hippest place in town, and they don’t have to go very far,” Doose said.
The restaurant makes all its food and wing sauces in-house including items such as the chicken pesto wrap, which comes at Doose’s recommendation for all to try. He also recommends customers to try Rotator 5 o’clock in Bangkok and Lost Highway Hitch Hiker IPA.
Howard’s intentions with the taphouse element of his new endeavor is to be known and for supporting local brewers in Colorado. The collaboration of Howard and Doose play on each other’s goals, with Doose wanting to become a beer connoisseur and Howard wanting to support local brewers.
“I think this is an exciting opportunity for this side of town and the campus to try and have something new,” Nickerson said.
Doose said he dreams of being able to open his own restaurant one day, but until then he intends to make ThunderZone the biggest name in town for the community as well as the university. The restaurant offers free Wi-Fi to all customers, NFL ticket and has six beer taps that are always changing.
“I think it’s going to be great because I am on the football team and it will be great for the fans,” said Connor Goetz a freshman from Mesa, Arizona. Goetz was one of many students who attended Student Day at ThunderZone Aug. 26. Student Day was an early opening for students try the menu and see what was new that ThunderZone will be bring to the university community.
In the future Howard and Doose intend to broadcast all the away games of the ThunderWolves football team not only to bring in customers, but also to support the team and help the Pueblo community cheer them at home or away.
“ThunderVillage is, hopefully, just the beginning of more retail close to campus,” Street said. “It has been something that students have wanted for a long time so we are very excited it is finally open. I can’t wait to see who the CSU-Pueblo Foundation finds to fill the two open spots at Thunder Village. It is an exciting time to be a ThunderWolf.”