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Hideaway celebrates 50 years

Oklahoman Modified: April 1, 2009 at 2:18 pm •  Published: April 1, 2009
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photo - Collages and a large globe hang inside the Hideaway Pizza restaurant on Northwest Expressway in northwest Oklahoma City on Tuesday, March 3, 2009. By John Clanton, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Collages and a large globe hang inside the Hideaway Pizza restaurant on Northwest Expressway in northwest Oklahoma City on Tuesday, March 3, 2009. By John Clanton, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Hideaway Pizza has managed to maintain its cool for more than 50 years.

The pizza restaurant is just as famous for its atmosphere — with colorful decor and often colorful employees — as it is for its pizza. So how has the restaurant, which first opened in Stillwater 52 years ago, moved gracefully into the future?

Creativity. "We have eccentric-looking employees," said Janie Harris, Hideaway's marketing director. "It has helped our customer base see through their own prejudices."

It's not uncommon to have a waiter with an unnatural color of hair or see a tattooed cook flipping pizza dough in the kitchen.

"We hire people who have outgoing personalities," said Darren Lister, co-owner of Hideaway 2 — which includes all the stores but the original.

That business practice has helped reduce turnover, he said, because employees like to work "where they're accepted."

But the company also encourages its patrons to be creative, through its collage project, a 50th anniversary T-shirt design contest and other ventures.

A new generation

It's no surprise, then, that the notoriously hip restaurant chain is now on Twitter.

Hideaway's new social media program is run by Ryan Walker, a public relations student at the University of Central Oklahoma, who started out waiting tables at Hideaway five years ago and now manages the Edmond store.

By using Twitter and Facebook to communicate with customers, Walker is reaching out to his own generation of Hideaway fans as the company expands.

" Hideaway has always been word-of-mouth," Walker said. "This is word-of-mouth on a bigger scale."

Lister, the owner, said he knows nothing about Twitter but he's excited about its potential to drive business. "We're probably one of the first restaurants to be Twittering, especially in the pizza community," he said.

Branching out

Stillwater's famous little hole-in-the-wall didn't start branching out until 1993, when the Cherry Street location in Tulsa opened.

A new store in Broken Arrow is scheduled to open next month, and Hideaway is working to secure a contract on an Oklahoma City store off Lake Hefner Parkway, Lister said.

They also just renovated the Edmond location, adding 50 seats.

— Jennifer Palmer

HISTORY

1957 — Hideaway Pizza opens in Stillwater.

1960 — Richard and Marti Dermer buy Hideaway Pizza in Stillwater.

1962 — Begin delivery service in new Volkswagon Beetle.

1978 — Pente board game invented and launched by Hideaway employee Gary Gabrel.

1980 — Original location moves from Third Street to current location at 230 S Knoblock St.

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