PRETTY PRAIRIE — She brings years of restaurant experience making pizzas. He has experience as a sous chef experimenting with different flavors.

Katie Crum, 32, and Connor Owens, 26, officially launched Fire & Slice Pizza on Aug. 7 in the backroom of The Pretty Prairie Steakhouse and Lil’ Rascals Lounge. All under one roof, the property stands next to the U.S. Post Office. Across the wide Main Street is the combination Pretty Prairie City Hall and Pretty Prairie Public Library.

The steakhouse is the only dining establishment operating in the Reno County city with a population of about 680. The restaurant’s outdoor sign advertises: “Good People Serving Great Food.” Prime rib and meatloaf are among the specialties, and the owners are Ed and Judy Markel. Owens is their grandson.  

Owens grew up in Pretty Prairie and attended a culinary school for a year in Taos, N.M. Crum grew up in Stillwater, Okla., but spent some time in Pretty Prairie, too. She moved back to Kansas from Atlanta about two years ago.

Brainstorming about how to take advantage of an underutilized backroom that once held a pool table led to the installation of a gas-fired oven and a counter, new lighting fixtures, and tables and chairs. They regard the selling point for the artisan pizza is the fresh dough — made daily — and fresh ingredients. All the meats are cooked and seasoned there.

Opening day taught Crum and Owens a lesson.

“Staff knows to make more dough for tomorrow,” they posted on Facebook opening night.

“I think we were both shocked by the support from the community,” Crum said Tuesday afternoon. 

Before the official opening, Fire & Slice Pizza rolled out a soft opening. Family and friends were invited, including the family of the man who installed the oven. State Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, also was invited, and Berger for Kansas subsequently praised the artisan pizza on Facebook.

It’s really great to see that in a small town, Berger said in a phone interview Tuesday of the new business venture. It’s “difficult for that to happen,” he said, but it gives a new option to the people in the community and it helps the town’s economy. 

Pretty Prairie voters this year approved the city’s first sales tax. The 1 percent tax started in July, and utility bills are expected to generate the largest single revenue stream from the sales tax.

Most of the dinners have been families, according to Crum and Owens. “We interact with kids,” Crum said, and that includes teasing the youngsters as they toss the dough. They want people “to be happy with our attitude,” she said.

The Farmers Favorite pizza featuring house-cooked meats is one of the most popular on the menu, but people are going just crazy for the stuffed mushrooms, too, they said. A new menu will be introduced in September.

Fire & Slice Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They don’t deliver pizza but they fill takeout orders and can fit seven pies in the oven at once.

They want to collaborate with Pretty Prairie schools on fundraisers and hope to offer extended hours on home game days to draw in people after the game. They also want to connect with those at the local skating rink and attract customers from outside Pretty Prairie. 

 “We definitely have big goals,” Crum said.