No doubt about it: Mickey & Bills Pizza is what the name describes.
But there’s more.
“This is more than selling pizza,” said the owner, Rick Davis.
Davis and his pizzeria are connected with Sports World, an Indianapolis-based ministry.
“The pros from Sports World go to schools to talk to youth,” Davis explained. “It’s a Christian endeavor. We had three street rallies here. We brought them out, had them speak. We had people like John Earl, Herman Weaver, the punter,” Davis said. “Mike Copp was a tight end who would have played in the Walter Payton era.
“We had that first rally in 1965 with music, games and free food We had 400 or 500 people. The pros would get on the stage. That day, 89 people accepted Christ.”
Davis has mementos from some of those pros, including one large, autographed picture that dominates the wall just to the left of the entrance.
“It’s a great organization,” Davis said. “They have turned a lot of kids in the right direction.”
The owner and his employees have also turned a lot of people in the direction of the pizzeria, located at 3102 Foltz St. in Mars Hill, just over the railroad tracks that run along Kentucky Ave.
Davis bought the place from Mickey Mitchell and his wife Mary, who partnered with Bill, giving the origin of the name.
“Mary Mitchell did a lot of the work,” Davis said. “She was the inside person. Mickey took care of the paperwork. We had meals with Mickey, who owned it. Then they wanted to sell it. They wouldn’t sell it to anybody else. They wanted me to buy it.”
So he did, in 1965.
“I thought I would keep it a few years and build it up,” Davis said. “But I enjoy the people in the neighborhood.
“In the beginning, it was a pizza place, but their focus had gotten away from pizza. We cut two-thirds of the items off the menu the first two years. We were focusing on pizza. We have the wings and coupled that with sandwiches.
Their specialty is the “Mars Hill Monster Pizza,” which includes 14 – count ‘em 14 – toppings.
“We’re a niche neighborhood restaurant.”
One that survived Covid and is working to survive increasing food costs.
Covid was a blessing for us,” said Davis. “This (tiny dining area) was never the money-making part. We probably won’t open it again. We get our cheeses from Delco (Foods) in Whitestown. They did a tremendous job through Covid.”
As did his staff.
“We have 10 employees. Nobody goes short. We’ve always worked on principle. I tell our people, if it’s not busy, if you pick up a rag or something that needs to be cleaned, I won’t send you home. We have grandsons working with me now – grandsons of people who were delivering for me in the ‘60’s.
“My daughter, Lusha Li, agreed to run it until going back to China to visit family. But with Covid, it’s too expensive.”
As is most everything.
“You see it in the stores. It’s the same here. Prices are so volatile. We’ve absorbed a lot of that. We have great clientele, great customers.
“This was a house, originally. Building-wise, most of the focus has been on the inside. We’re going to put in new ovens next month. We’ve been running the old ovens for 35 years.
“We’re trying to put out a consistent product.”
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
By Steve Page
Over the years, Rick Davis has brought speakers from Sports World to speak to younger residents of Mars Hill and Decatur Township.
Davis, the owner of Mickey & Bills Pizza, said the Indianapolis-based organization has helped many of them.
According to its website, www.sportsworld.org, Sports World was founded in 1978 by Ira Lee “Doc” Eshleman.
“Through the Chaplaincy Program he started for the NFL and AFL, Doc developed a passion to give young people role models that would inspire them to make positive choices,” the website reads. “He realized that professional athletes who have learned from their own experiences could inspire young people and be the role models they need.
“Over the last 43 years, Sports World has reached over 20.1 million young people in the United States and internationally with the Message of Hope: that they are loved and that their lives have value and purpose. We bring hope and help for the immediate problems young people are experiencing and the opportunity to discover that hope is ultimately found in a relationship with Jesus.
“Sports World reaches students through in-person and virtual school assemblies, SEL programs, and social media channels. We provide ongoing encouragement and resources to equip and empower young people long after our events have concluded.”
Among the current speakers are the likes of three-time Olympic gold medal softball standout Leah Amico, pro wrestler Carmine “Blast” Azzato, Rushia Brown (WNBA Cleveland and Charlotte), and NFL standouts Lee Rouson (New York Giants), Jeff Neal (Houston Oilers), Jimmie Bell (Giants, Chargers) and Indiana University defensive end Ken Johnson (Bengals).
“I was raised in a home with good values, but in my college years I made some bad choices, using alcohol and drugs,” Johnson said on the website. “The intense pressure of competition was the excuse that many of my teammates and I gave for our drug use. The drugs not only lowered my potential as an athlete, but also as a student. When I turned my life over to Christ, I found He gave me the strength to deal with the pressure and brought true happiness and peace in my life that drugs just could not give.”