ARCANUM — Charlie and Sarah Billenstein recently purchased Picnic’s Pizza after the restaurant’s former owners announced they were preparing to retire. The couple took ownership of the shop August 18, opened for business less than a week later, and are planning their official grand opening for October 7.
“I’ve always had an interest in owning my own business,” Sarah Billenstein said. “We were actually interested way back when the previous owners bought the place, but our kids were too young. It just wasn’t the right time for us.”
Sarah said her family has long had a connection with the popular Arcanum eatery, largely due to their 18-year-old son, Justin.
“Justin worked here for two years before we bought the place,” Sarah said. “So we had that connection as well. He explained to us how complex things could get back in the kitchen, and so on.”
Sarah and her husband have plans for the store going forward, but they also want to be careful not to change too much too soon.
“We’re keeping the menu the same, at least at first,” Sarah said. “Any changes we make will be slow.” Some of those changes could include adding salads, a premium burger and fries, and chicken wings to the menu.
“We’re going to keep everything we have,” Charlie said, “but offer a heartier selection as well.”
The new owners have also made other improvements since taking over Picnic’s, including painting, hiring a cleaning company to degrease the kitchen, and putting in a new computerized point of sale system.
“The place was basically move-in ready,” Sarah said. “The previous owners did a great job. These were just some little enhancements we wanted to make.”
They also mounted a new flat-screen television set in one corner of the main dining area, a task which fell to Sarah’s husband Charlie.
“It was a nightmare to do,” Charlie said, grinning. “But I’m pretty proud of myself.”
And their new venture is a family affair in more ways than one. In addition to employing their teenage son and his girlfriend, Sarah’s cousin, Emily Gibson, is their daytime manager, running the shop when Sarah and Charlie are both at work.
“We absolutely adore her,” Sarah said. “She’s a great support, but a great leader as well. Teamwork’s very important to her. And she’s worked in this industry, so she’s taught us a lot about different processes to put in place.”
In addition to running Picnic’s, Charlie and Sarah also both work full-time: Sarah as a purchasing agent at Abbott Laboratories in Tipp City, and Charlie as a boiler operator at Anderson’s Ethanol in Arcanum. They both see Picnic’s not only as a business venture, but as a way to give back to the community.
“The town really takes care of this place,” Charlie said. “As soon as we put up the Facebook page, the response was just phenomenal.”
“It was important to me to give young people in the community a good environment to work in,” Sarah said. “These days it’s a give and take – an employer needs to offer attractive benefits, just as an employee needs to have skills. We kinda feel like we’re stewards of this place, rather than owners.”
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