Lem’s Pizza in Fredericksburg celebrates 25th anniversary

Lem’s Pizza in Fredericksburg celebrates 25th anniversary

Image Credit: Aaron Dorksen

Lem’s Pizza has a recipe for success worth celebrating, 25 years after its humble opening in the back of a grocery store.

At the heart of the beautiful little village of Fredericksburg, Lem’s Pizza, 110 N. Mill St., is a restaurant known just as much for great food as it is for social gatherings and giving back to the community.

“We couldn’t have a more generous or gracious business owner than Mark Lemon,” said Louie Stanley, the longtime Waynedale wrestling and football coach, whose family lives nearby and is among Lem’s many loyal customers. “The food there is excellent.

“Lem’s is also a popular place for people to hang out or watch the Browns, Indians or Cavaliers games. It was kind of an experiment when it started; I don’t know if Mark knew how big it would grow.”

Lemon smiled when asked how it feels to mark the 25th anniversary of his restaurant, which has inside and outside eating areas and also does a carryout business. Lem’s is known for its pan-style pizza, chicken wings, sub sandwiches, ice cream and more.

“I’m thankful that this business has supported my family well over the years and really appreciate the community support,” Lemon said. “They’ve been awesome. I love this community. I grew up here. My parents also live here, and so does a lot of my family. In that regard I've also tried to give back to the community wherever I can.”

Lemon started his pizza shop in 1996 in the back of the Fredericksburg Market, which was owned by his parents, Rod and Kathy. With help and advice from family friend Steve Miller, Lemon was soon operating a takeout-only pizza shop.

About 1 ½ years later, Lemon bought the building that his current shop is in and completely remodeled it.

“This building was originally an old gas station and restaurant,” Lemon said. “Our north dining room, where we have lots of old Fredericksburg pictures hanging on the walls, was a service garage, and then it sat empty for about seven years. It was dilapidated, and there were holes in the roof.”

Lemon was able to negotiate buying the building and opened the doors of Lem’s Pizza there in 1997 after an extensive remodeling.

“We kept adding on as we went, remodeled more areas, and added on the kitchen,” he said. “As for our food, we've always tried to use quality ingredients. Whether it’s pepperoni, cheese or sauce, we don’t cut corners.”

Lem’s Pizza has a unique mix of customers, ranging from nearby residents including the Amish community to out-of-towners who stop by after using the nearby Holmes County Trail for biking, hiking or jogging.

The walls are covered with local memorabilia, both historical and current. During the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA championship season, a photo of a table filled with young Amish fans watching one of the games at Lem’s went viral.

“We get lots of people from Wooster and, really, all over the Cleveland area,” Lemon said. “Some come down for the trail, and then they'll stop in to watch a game on TV or just get some pizza. We’ve got a pretty good following on Facebook.”

The food alone is good enough for Lem’s Pizza to be a success, but when residents consider how much Lemon helps the community, it makes the restaurant extra special.

“Lem sponsors youth league teams and hosts a pizza party whenever a Waynedale team wins a Wayne County Athletic League title,” Stanley said. “It’s a big deal to our kids. They put up a billboard out front when our teams go far in the playoffs or our athletes go to state.”

Although Lemon didn’t serve in the military, he has a special appreciation for the armed forces. On several occasions he has freeze dried pizzas and sent them to local residents serving abroad including a delivery to Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War.

Mark and Melissa Lemon’s children — Grace, Max and Peyton — have all been successful Waynedale student-athletes and worked at the restaurant. They’ve also employed nieces and nephews while other employees have wound up being treated like family.

“Our manager Miriam Hosteller has been here for a long time, and I couldn't do it without her,” Lemon said. “She's goes above and beyond all the time. We’ve been here long enough that I’ve hired some second-generation kids whose parents worked here when they were young. Two marriages developed from people meeting here.”

Lemon’s advice for anyone who wants to start their own business: “Be prepared to put in the work, especially at first. Some people kind of have this romantic idea of what it’s like to open up a restaurant, but unfortunately, they have one of the highest failure rates. Work hard, watch your costs and staffing is really an issue lately. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my employees.”

Lemon has gone out of his way to thank customers in person for his Silver Anniversary, giving out hundreds of T-shirts and free ice cream during the Fredericksburg Merchant Days in October.

“We have a gorgeous little downtown, and I think Lem’s Pizza is a big reason why,” Stanley said. “After Mark converted the old service station, other good businesses followed. Go there on a Saturday afternoon and it’s really bustling.”