Current and former employees of Pizza Barn stand with retired Pizza Barn owner Roger Diedrichsen.
Tucked into one corner of the Valley View Plaza for more than four decades, Roger Diedrichsen’s Pizza Barn has been the place to go in the Lahontan Valley for birthdays, sports wins and family fun.
This time, though, the last community party at the Pizza Barn — continually voted annually as the Lahontan Valley News’ Best Pizza in the Best of Fallon contest program — was held for Diedrichsen on June 30 before Jennifer and Barry Vasquez took ownership of the business.
An era is coming to an end for the Diedrichsen brothers who began the business in 1978. At one time, the Diedrichsens owned five Pizza Barn restaurants including two in the Reno area and one in Gardnerville that closed in 2014. The last Pizza Barn restaurant in Elko is currently for sale.
“Then, we’ll be completely out of the pizza business,” he quickly pointed out.
In 44 years though, the Fallon community has embraced Pizza Barn and the Diedrichsens, but Roger, a former history teacher, worried.
“I asked one of my brothers what happens if they don’t like us,” Diedrichsen asked.
Diedrichsen, though, already knew the answer.
“If we are to become successful, we have to be part of the community. This has to be a great place to out hang out on a Friday night,” he said.
Retired Pizza Barn owner Roger Diedrichsen, center, has a laugh with Kim Beeghly, left, director of the Greenwave Quarterback Club, and Cindy McGarrah, a former employee who worked at Pizza Barn in the late 1970s.
Time to move on
After the last few customers and well-wishers left Pizza Barn, Diedrichsen sat down, looked around the pizzeria and sighed. On the walls are photos and pictures of sports teams, specifically those of the Giants. For the past three hours, Diedrichsen had been on his feet, walking from table to table thanking his loyal clientele or taking photos with former employees who attended the party.
“My body has told me that I need to hang it up,” said the 75-year-old Diedrichsen. “It’s just too much moving around. It’s time to go.”
Diedrichsen now has three grandchildren, and they live in New York state with his oldest daughter, Jordan, and her husband.
“I figure this is about the right time,” he added.
Although the Sparks native will remain in Fallon for a few months, he intends to head to New York for a long visit. For the diehard San Francisco Giants baseball fan, he will be near Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Always the educator and sports aficionado, Diedrichsen thought he would be a teacher for 30 years, but life had its quirks in the late 1970s.
“I enjoyed teaching. I really liked it,” he said, grinning. “Being a teacher is not all that different than having a crew making pizzas.”
The farewell party unleashed decades of memories for Diedrichsen and his current and former employees. Pizza Barn, which was located next to a bank at the Valley View Plaza, opened in 1978 on Nov. 8. Three days later, the Fallon Greenwave won the state AA football championship, its last until 2015.
“The restaurant was packed with people,” Diedrichsen recalled. “Fallon found a place where they wanted to celebrate, and we haven’t stopped since.”
In 2006, Pizza Barn expanded, taking over the former bank’s location. Immediately, the west side filled up with more fans wanting to watch sports on one of Pizza Barn’s many televisions.
Diedrichsen said customers came to Pizza Barn to watch the important games on television such as the San Francisco Giants winning three World Series, the University of Nevada Wolf Pack playing football and basketball games or the San Francisco 49ers capturing five Super Bowls.
Diedrichsen said the three World Series involving the Giants also brought a good crowd to the Pizza Barn, but he stayed home.
“I was so involved in the games that I didn’t want to be interrupted,” he said.
Over the years, Diedrichsen said he has lost count of the local sports teams partying at Pizza Barn as well as people celebrating a special event or birthdays.
“I had a young lady in here the other day,” Diedrichsen said. “She told me she celebrated her first birthday down here. Last year, she had her first birthday party for her son.”
Diedrichsen, though, rewarded students for reading books, and the “Read for Pizza Sake” program has given out thousands of personal pan pizzas to the area’s youngsters.
“That’s a celebration,” Diedrichsen stressed.
The pizza-reading program, however, was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We went almost a year without kids here,” he lamented.
Prior to COVID, Pizza Barn hosted its biggest night of celebrating in 2019 when both the Fallon boys and girls basketball teams won state championships in Las Vegas on March 2. Diedrichsen smiled thinking about the day and how it unfolded.
“That was remarkable,” he recalled. “The girls won their championship first.”
The Lady Wave captured their third consecutive 3A championship with a 45-42 win over Moapa Valley. With the help of a friend, Diedrichsen said Pizza Barn located a cable feed for the game, and fans at Pizza Barn watched the part of the girls’ game and followed by the boys.
“We had a good crowd of people,” Diedrichsen said.
As the boys’ game progressed, Fallon pushed Elko into overtime. In the shot heard around the county, Elijah Jackson’s arcing 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Greenwave a 57-54 win and its first state championship since the 1970s.
“I had received an order for 20 large pizzas,” Diedrichsen said. “I made a few calls to find out what was going on.”
Diedrichsen announced a community party not only for one state championship team but two. At 8:30 p.m. Diedrichsen said the girls’ bus arrived accompanied by a procession of fire trucks, police cars and an ambulance. The procession bypassed the high school and headed directly to Pizza Barn.
The girls exited the bus, wearing their state championship T-shirts.
“Then the guys got here,” Diedrichsen added.
Current and former employees award a token of their appreciation to retired Pizza Barn owner Roger Diedrichsen. From left are Michelle, RaeAnn Smith, Shannon Collins and Diedrichsen.
Once the first-responders, parents and the community welcomed the boys’ team, they settled into the Pizza Barn for a few hours of celebrating. On one of the sports channels, though, Jackson’s 3-point shot made the highlight reel.
“They (the recap) showed the ballplayers, showed the desperation shot. That’s the first time they (the players) saw it. They were watching it from the Pizza Barn. Those are memories they will always have.”
Diedrichsen then borrowed the iconic expression uttered by sportscaster Al Michaels when the U.S. hockey team upset the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“Do you believe in miracles? Those sporting events were priceless,” Diedrichsen added.
All good things end
Former Fallon mayor and councilman Robert “Bob” Erickson owned Fallon Theatres until he sold the business eight years ago. Both the theater and Pizza Barn employed many high school students during their years of operation.
“I look at it as a blessing for us,” Erickson said, after arriving to the party. “What we enjoyed the most were the young people who worked for us and who became our friends. They were part of our business.”
Erickson said the community as well as Elko, Gardnerville and Reno benefitted from the Diedrichsen family.
“They were all involved with the kids,” he said. “They gave so much back to the community.”
Shannon Collins worked at Pizza Barn from 1997-2000.
“It was a good time, the best time,” she said.
Likewise, Pizza Barn manager RaeAnn (Villanueva) Smith has worked for Diedrichsen for more than a decade.
“As manager, I make sure the kids are trained properly,” she said.
Cindy McGarrah, the Fallon Chamber of Commerce president, worked at Pizza Barn as a senior in high school in 1979.
“It was awesome,” she said. “It was so much fun.”
Steve Ranson/LVNMcGarrah, whose daughter Heide also worked at Pizza Barn when she attended high school, said working for Diedrichsen was ideal during her final year at Churchill County High School.
Fallon boys basketball coach Chelle Dalager displays the state championship trophy in 2019 at a Pizza Barn party for the team.
“For me, it gave me a sense of family,” she said. “This was the place. If you were here and working, he would be fair and honest.”
Although she didn’t work at Pizza Barn, Kim Beeghly, director of the Greenwave Quarterback Club, said Diedrichsen is “just a wonderful guy.”
“He always cared about the community and when we came here,” Beeghly said. “He would help us with so many events.”
Beeghly added Diedrichsen knew everybody, and that’s what made Pizza Barn special to the community.
Sara Beebe, operations manager for the Churchill Entrepreneurial Development Association, credits Diedrichsen for teaching life’s lessons.
Steve Ranson/LVN“I learned so many customer service skills, management skills, money and handling payroll," she said. “If you weren’t a San Francisco Giants fan, you became one.”
Retired Pizza Barn owner Roger Diedrichsen talks to friends at his June 30 going away party.
Beebe said she also saw two World Series involving the Giants while working at Pizza Barn.
Matthew Lindsay was on shift when Pizza Barn opened in 1978. He worked for Diedrichsen for a year-and-a-half.
“He was the toughest guy I ever worked for,” Lindsay said. “He was strict, but he taught me a lot.”
Likewise, Carrian Rechel worked at Pizza Barn in 1983. She said Diedrichsen was a good boss and worked around everyone’s schedule.
“Everything good comes to an end,” she said. “I hate to see him go.”
Rechel said Pizza Barn has been an institution in Fallon. Robin Muscato, who has worked for Diedrichsen for 10 years, agrees, saying he also has good memories working for the pizzeria.
“He’s kind-hearted, helps the community,” Muscato said.
Over the years, Muscato said Diedrichsen gave out many reading certificates and donated to the youth athletic teams.
Destry Johnson worked at Pizza Barn during his junior and senior years of high school.
“When I was in high school, he understood sports,” Johnson said. “He was an understanding boss. He took care of you.”
Johnson also worked for the Diedrichsens at their Reno Pizza Barn.
Michelle Diedrichsen had mixed emotions during the night, but she also wanted to express her gratitude to the Fallon community.
With Roger Diedrichsen planning his next move, she said her father is excited to see the grandchildren: “This will be the beginning of a new chapter for him.”