It’s been more than 50 years since Dayton fell in love with a thin crust square-cut pizza.
Marion Glass, a scrappy local kid who as a youngster sold peanuts and soda at baseball games, opened the first Marion’s Piazza, a staple of Dayton dining, on Aug. 19, 1965.
Ambition and a solid work ethic put Glass on the path to success.
“My family was poor,” Glass told the Dayton Daily News in 1976. “I dropped out of Kiser High School when I was a junior. I wasn’t afraid to work and I wanted to learn.”
In the 1930s, Glass organized a group of boys to take to the streets on bicycles and sell ice cream bars.
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“We would have big days when Ringling Brothers Circus would come to the fairgrounds,” said Glass. “People would come out by the hundreds to watch them set up the tents and we would sell a lot of ice cream to them.”
Selling the frozen treat eventually led to store fronts on Xenia Avenue and then North Main Street. After World War II, Glass opened his own vending company and maintained 1,000 cigarette and candy machines in a 40-mile area.
Glass initially got into the pizza business as the owner of three Cassano’s pizza franchises. But he had his own ideas. “I felt that it was time to have a dining room pizza house,” he said.
The community had never seen a restaurant like the one at 460 Patterson Road in Dayton, where a large deluxe pizzas cost $2.50. The restaurant had seating for 200, four pizza ovens and the largest walk in cooler in town, according to a 1965 article in the Dayton Herald.
Glass hired an interior decorator to create the feel of an outdoor café in Italy. Old brick, rustic iron décor, and canvas awnings complemented the look and lent itself to the name piazza, an enclosed veranda.
Marion’s Piazza is not only a Dayton tradition, but was also the site for Wednesday night cast parties, from 1966 to 1995, for the Kenley Players summer stock theater company. Dozens of black-and-white photos of the famous players line the walls today.
Big name stars like Mickey Rooney, Cloris Leachman, Sally Field and Frankie Avalon dined and reveled at Marion’s. In 1975, Henry Winkler, who played “The Fonz” on Happy Days, drew 2,000 people to the restaurant.
The business has grown to nine locations in the Dayton area. Founder Marion Glass died at age 92 in 2006. Today his son Roger Glass runs the business.
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