Nancy Maria's Pizza

Nancy Maria's Pizza, located at 23349 Coshocton Ave. in Howard, closed two weeks ago. Dirko's Pizza has purchased the property and will assume full ownership March 1.

HOWARD – Dirko’s Pizza, a family-owned restaurant that’s operated in Mount Vernon for nearly three decades, will soon open its second Knox County location.

“We are expanding,” manager Donn Parker told Knox Pages Wednesday, “and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Dirko’s is headed to Howard. The company recently bought the former Nancy Maria’s Pizza property at 23349 Coshocton Ave., and will officially take over March 1.

“Our goal is to be open by April 1,” Parker said.

Nancy Maria’s Pizza closed two weeks ago, Parker said. When the owners put the property up for sale two months ago, Parker expressed interest immediately.

“It was just sort of a no-brainer,” he said.

Parker (who manages the Mount Vernon location at 500 Coshocton Ave.) and his brother, Dean (who owns Dirko’s), both live in Apple Valley. Donn said the restaurant often receives delivery requests from Howard-area residents, “and it’s just too far for us to deliver.” Drivers will typically meet customers at On The Run Drive-Thru on Route 36 to complete pizza purchases.

Now, with a location in Howard, Dirko’s will be able to deliver directly to eastern Knox County residents.

“It was just a great opportunity,” Parker said. “The opportunity came up and we decided to go for it.”

Dirko’s has operated in Mount Vernon for 28 years, and has been at its current location for the last 20. There is also a franchise in downtown Newark.

The business began in Columbus in 1980, when Parker’s mother, stepfather, and oldest brother (named Dirk) opened their first restaurant on Cleveland Avenue. The family originally had five restaurants in central Ohio.

“When a bunch of locations got shut down in Columbus, we migrated up here,” Parker explained.

Ever since Dirko’s moved to its current Coshocton Avenue location, Parker said “business has been incredible.” Dirko’s has become famous for its stromboli, as well as its pizza, subs, wings and Italian dinners.

Most importantly, Parker said, the business has stayed within the family. Dirko’s is approaching its 40th anniversary this August, and Parker said the restaurant still uses its original stromboli recipe.

“It’s all been in the family since 1980…” Parker said proudly. “We’re keeping mom’s recipe alive.”

Parker seemed excited about expanding to Howard. The new Dirko’s location will double as a sit-down restaurant, with seating for up to 35 people and a party room in the back. This will be new for Dirko’s, as the Mount Vernon location only seats eight people.

While Parker said Dirko’s plans to hire family members to work at the Howard location (Dean will serve as the manager), the company will also be looking to hire drivers and waiters.

Over the last month, Parker said the company’s decision to expand to Howard has been validated.

“We’ve had a great response from the community,” Parker said. “Someone put it on Apple Valley’s neighborhood page about a month ago and our phones started ringing off the hook here in Mount Vernon. It’s been very well-received.”

A lot of work will need to be done at the Howard location before April 1, Parker said – including cleaning, organizing, moving in new equipment, and training new employees.

On Tuesday, Parker got the keys to the building and went in to take measurements. On his way out, he slid a Dirko’s box onto the window sill.

Then, he found the letters for the restaurant’s sidewalk sign, which sits along Route 36.

“Dirko’s Pizza,” the sign now reads. “Coming soon.”

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.