Butch’s Pizza is one of the greatest local business success stories ever. And I was there at the very beginning.
Sometime in 1982, my brother Jim and I had been drinking at the Tip Top Inn (back in the pre-Whitey owned days) and when we left we drove down the street we happened to see our friend, Steave Carey (and yes, there’s an “A” in his name, that’s not a typo) playing guitar on his porch in front of his house. We pulled up to say hi and he told us that he and his dad had just gotten laid off work from their jobs as steamfitters. We told him we were sorry and asked what they planned on doing. He told us his dad had a great pizza recipe and they were thinking about making pizzas and selling them to bars.
We wished him good luck and then drove off into the night laughing about this idea. I remember saying, “What, do they think they’re Chef Boy Ar Dee or something?” And Jim and I had a good old laugh about that.
Well, the last laugh is on us! The entire Carey family founded the company. Barbara Carey (Butch's wife), Greg and Tim would cut pork from the bone and cut up the onions (their eyes would tear up from the strength of the onions) for the sandwiches. They tubed the sausage into links (they still make them but they are now in patties instead of links.) The links were cooked, then they assembled the sausage and sautéed onions into a hoagie bun. At that time, Butch and Steave did delivery's and opened new accounts.
After securing several accounts with the sandwiches, pizza soon followed. Butch opened the shop in Morton, hired a few more employees. Barbara, Greg and Tim did everything in the kitchen from cooking sausage for the pizza to making the pizza and wrapping pizzas. Not to mention grinding the cheese and mixing their homemade seasoning. Butch and Steave worked in the kitchen from time to time but mostly servicing customers, opening new accounts and developing delivery routes. Early on, the routes expanded to three, Butch and Steave hired more salesmen and continued to manage the plant as well as open new accounts.
The delicious pies were such a hit in taverns, they branched out into the world of frozen pizzas and now they sell over a million pizzas a year. That’s right, a MILLION pizzas a year! They went from humble beginnings on the South Side of Peoria selling to local taverns to selling their product to stores and taverns in over 50 counties in Illinois and they ship Butch’s Pizzas nationwide. As the company grew, Butch’s other two sons, Greg and Tim joined the business and it became one of the area’s biggest family business success stories. They now have over 30 employees and in addition to thirty different varieties of Butch’s Pizza, they also sell sandwiches, tamales, hot sauce and their own special seasoning.
Some of you may remember Tim Carey, who along with his wife Colleen, visited New York when I was doing my 365 Bar Crawl. If not, here’s a few posts from our time together out there, just click, here, here and here.
Since I gave them a little tour of some bars and pizza parlors in New York, Tim has agreed to return the favor and give us a tour of Butch’s Pizza. So let’s go hit the MBIP mobile and let this cheesy post begin!
It's a little grey and dreary out here as we make our way to Butch's Pizza in Morton, uh oh, what's that up there...
A dreaded bridge. And as much as I hate driving over them, it's even worse when it's raining. Time for a little white knuckle driving here.
Well, we made it over the bridge and look, the skies have cleared up as we've arrived at Butch's Pizza. And as MBIP Contributor, Scott Turley noted in his post when he visited here, there's no signage telling you that this is Butch's Pizza...
But, just like in Scott's post, the truck with the piggy logo tells the tale, let's get this tour going!
I've got an appointment, so let's go on in and see what's shaking at Butch's Pizza.
Here's our tour guide, Tim Carey! Great to see him again!
Here's Tim with his older brother, Steave who founded the company with their dad, Butch Carey. Their brother Greg also works here, but he was gone for the day, I guess he heard I was stopping by! You can see him in the bonus pictures below.
Here's Tim in his office where as you can see he has stacks of paper work. My goal is to keep him away from this stuff for a while. It's what I do, folks!
Rich stopped by and said hello. He's been a route supervisor here since 1985, which makes him the longest running employee at Butch's Pizza.
I asked Tim who designed the original pig logo and he told me it was his mom, Barbara, who used to hand draw all of the original signage back in the day. Here's one of her original pieces of art. Very cool!
I got a Kitchen Cooked Potato Chip flashback as I donned the hair net for the tour of Butch's.
Here's Tim opening up the door to take us behind the scenes at Butch's Pizza.
And the first person we meet behind the door is Mel, who's the plant supervisor. She's worked here at Butch's Pizza for around 13 years.
Here's vats of fresh cheese that's freshly grated daily at Butch's. Yes, they cut the cheese daily here. Oof, sorry about that, let's just move along.
Fresh pork is also ground daily here and cooked in Butch's special, top secret seasonings that give it that one of a kind, unique porky flavor.
I couldn't take pictures of the cooking process or they would have had to kill me, but here's the meat for the pizza cooling down.
And here's where the pizzas are assembled and put to life for sale.
As they get near the end of the line they get wrapped up and...
Here's the pies getting ready to get shrink-wrapped.
Here they come all shrink-a-dinked and in a Squeeze-like moment, they get labelled with love.
Then they get boxed and put in...
The freezer room. Brrrr, this room lives up to its name, it's freezing in here!
Here's a couple stacks of Butch's frozen pizzas which will be delivered to a store near you. If you don't live in the area, then you can always buy them online.
If you dig the pig, but don't want to eat the pig, Butch's also has vegetarian pies.
Nate, the warehouse and freezer manager hands off a pie to Tim. This is the part of the tour I was really looking forward to, eating a Butch's Pizza at Butch's Pizza.
Here's the spacious and lovely break room at Butch's where the end of our tour begins.
Tim inserts the pie into one of the official Butch's pizza ovens. My mouth is starting to water already.
And through the magic of the internet, the pizza is ready! Here's Tim, proving once again to be quite the cut up guy.
Wow, I swear there's nothing like the look and smell of a freshly baked Butch's Pizza! Now let's eat!
The pizza was extra delicious eating it in the house of Butch's Pizza. Thanks to Tim, Steave and everyone at Butch's for a fun, behind the scenes look at a day in the life of Butch's Pizza.
Burp...The End! We'll see you all tomorrow.
655 Flint Avenue
Bonus Photos From Tim Carey!
Tim dug into the photo archives at Butch’s and sent us in these photos.
Here's Butch Carey standing in front of one of the first Butch's Pork House Pizza trucks.
601 S. First Street, the building in Morton that used to be the Butch's place of operation.
A shot of Butch cradling some of his pizza creations that Central Illinois and beyond has grown to love.
The entire Carey clan: Clockwise from left: Tim, Butch, Steave, Greg and Barbara.
Bonus Art by Jaws the Cabbie!
MBIP Contributor and pal, Jaws the Cabbie claims to have uncovered a secret step in the Butch's Pizza making process. I don't know about that Jaws, but thanks for sending it in!