For 43 years, Fallon's Pizza Barn has endured change, recessions – and now a pandemic

Roger Diedrichsen, right, owner of the Fallon Pizza Barn, stands with Marie Nygren, the photographer who did the “Barns for the Barn” project. The barn photos were recently acquired by the Pizza Barn and are on display.
Pizza Barn: A family collaboration

Roger Diedrichsen, right, owner of the Fallon Pizza Barn, stands with Marie Nygren, the photographer who did the “Barns for the Barn” project. The barn photos were recently acquired by the Pizza Barn and are on display. Pizza Barn: A family collaboration Photo by Steve Ranson.

What is your favorite place to go in Fallon for pizza? Most people vote for the Pizza Barn.

“It’s been the place where Fallonites celebrate,” owner Roger Diedrichsen said.

For 43 years families and friends have gathered there to make birthdays, sport team wins, reunions, gender revealings and other celebrations happy.

How did the Pizza Barn get started? And how does a business get such a great reputation and a consistent following of patrons? I asked Diedrichsen to share his thoughts.

In the 1970s, Carl Dodge, an iconic state legislator and developer, built the Valley View complex with a pizza parlor specifically in mind. He was friends with Joe Ray, the owner of Straw Hat Pizza in Reno, and invited him to consider opening a business in Fallon.

The idea was declined, as Fallon was considered too remote. The opportunity was then presented to the Diedrichsen boys, Roger and John. Both had worked at Straw Hat Pizza in college and were very familiar with the pizza business. They considered living in Fallon an adventure and were willing to take risks, such as owning a store in a remote location.

In 1978, Fallon welcomed the new entrepreneurs and their unique pizza. Roger and John were mentored by Joe Ray about business strategies. They estimated that in a small community almost everyone — at least 80% of the people — would try the new place within two months. If 20% decided to return as faithful customers, their venture would be a success. People started adopting the Pizza Barn as “my pizza place.” The bills were paid the first year, and the rest is history, almost.

Roger and John knew that there had to be components in place in order to gain credibility. The first was having a personal mantra to do business. Their mantra is, “Who is the most important customer you deal with? The one you are dealing with right now. Treat people the best you can.” They are careful when hiring staff to this day, and only positive, outgoing, friendly staff willing to treat people well are considered for employment. Being family friendly is part of their outstanding reputation.

Credibility is important. The Pizza Barn has high standards. They like to “shoot for the stars,” and aiming high has been rewarding. People appreciate a personal connection with the owner of the establishment, and Roger knows what many customers like to drink, and how they like their pizza. Everything is about your satisfaction, and if there is a slight mistake, adjustments are made, or a guest pass readily given.

Consistency of a product matters. The same rich dough recipe has been used since the opening. It is mixed by scratch daily, left to rise, placed in the walk-in to settle, and then sent through the dough roller and cut into circles. From day one all the tomatoes are bought as paste from the same company from California’s Central Valley. A special combination of spices is then added to make the sauce.

Five different cheeses are blended together — Monterey Jack, Provolone, Mild Cheddar, Mozzarella and Parmesan — and all are part of the secret recipe, unique and unlike any other known pizza establishment. The fresh vegetables come from local sources such as Lattin Farms.

Roger stops by to pick them up and often the Sungold cherry tomatoes are still warm from being on a vine when he places them in the salad bar. Meat is bought directly from Albaugh Ranch or Heck’s, and Valley Distributors provides drinks. Roger said Pizza Barn always supports local farmers, ranchers, and businesses.

The youth in our community are also supported. He said many youth athletic teams and events have been sponsored over the years and a reputation of being family orientated was built and remains. Two years ago, the CCHS boys and girls basketball teams took State Championships in Las Vegas. As their buses approached Fallon, a huge order of pizzas was called into Pizza Barn. He said everyone wanted to come HOME to celebrate at their favorite place!

The most satisfaction of all for Roger comes from a very important program the Pizza Barn developed to encourage reading, “Read For Pizza Sake.” As a child, Roger said, “I had incredible parents. And my home was the best classroom. There were many books and magazines. But I was challenged and hated reading. I was forced to read 30 minutes every day before play time.”

Eventually, reading became easier and its importance realized. But the feelings of early inadequacy and struggles were remembered. Roger’s daughter, Michelle, had a first-grade teacher who had a reading incentive program to promote literacy, and she needed rewards. Roger teamed with her, supplied pizzas, and the result was far reaching. For the past 31 years and still today, all teachers are welcome to participate.

A letter of explanation and coupons are given to teachers at the beginning of the year. Teachers set their own criteria with a focus on the love and learning of reading, for their elementary school students. The reward is a personal pizza. When the child goes to the Pizza Barn to present their coupon and order, Roger said “a big deal” is made by the staff, complete with an announcement that a good reader is here.

In 1983, Lane, John’s twin brother, joined the team. The three brothers built new Pizza Barns in Elko, Gardnerville, Reno and Sparks. The Pizza Barn is a family business, a collaboration of the skill and now a management of Roger and Lane. Only the pizzerias in Elko and Fallon remain today.

The Pizza Barn in Fallon continued to thrive and soon it became obvious that an expansion was needed. Customers were trained not to come in on Friday nights because it was too busy and overcrowded! It had become Fallon’s most popular place for parties and celebrations.

The Hammond brothers, Mark and Thayne, put a project together to expand an adjoining building space. The design centered on dining space, kitchen equipment, and a much needed second set of restrooms. In 2006 the newly remodeled Pizza Barn opened, and soon it filled up.

A fine reputation continued to grow more customers, proudly backed with awards won for the Lahontan Valley News Best of Fallon.

The Pizza Barn survived in a rural community in a small space through two years of recession, and now through a pandemic. Currently, Roger Diedrichsen said curbside delivery is available and doing well. In store dining is very limited: a place that boasted a happy crowd of over 200 is now limited to 40.

He said there have been shortages of products, vendor issues, higher expenses with the doubling of disposable products, no salad bar and no parties over four people. Still, the Pizza Barn stays in business. People continue to support “the barn” and keep it alive through a difficult time.

“Thank you Fallon for the support through the years,” Diedrichsen said. “Fallon has treated us well. I’m amazed to be in a community that looks out for each other.”

Editor’s note: Although photography is Marie Nygren’s passion, she is now combining her love for photos and people with her articles. She is sharing the local history and the community’s people along with her art. She can be reached at 775-426-8808.


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