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Pizza & Pipes Restaurant - 3/17 Wurlitzer
Bellevue, Washington
Organ installation timeframe: 1977 - 1992
 
Back to the Northwest Theatre Organ History: Pizza & Pipes Restaurants page

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The Bellevue Pizza & Pipes restaurant was operated by Jack & Betty Laffaw. Betty's brother was Bill Breuer who owned several other organ-equipped pizza parlors in the Northwest.
 
The organ was a Style 260 originally from the Academy of Music Theater in New York City. Jack Laffaw and Bill Carson rebuilt the organ prior to installation at the restaurant.
 
When notice was given in 1992 that the restaurant would have to be torn down to make way for a street extension accommodating the Bellevue Convention Center, PSTOS members Greg Smith, Russ Evans and Jerry Gould operated the restaurant for 18 months. After the restaurant closed, Russ and Greg moved the organ to the Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho near Cour d'Alene.
 
Staff Organists:
Thelma Barclay
Donn Clayton
Tom Cotner
Andy Crow
Fred Forsberg
Brian Ingoldsby
Dick Schrum
Patti Simon
Greg Smith
Sharon Stearnes
Bob White
Concerts:
Lee Erwin, September 1979
Ashley Miller, February 1981
Jerry Nagano, September 1982
Pauline Dixon, March 1983
 
(1991-1992):
John Giacchi
John Atwell
Margaret Hall
Chris Elliot
Jim Riggs
Walt Strony
 
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Photos courtesy Jim Stettner 2005
 
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From Journal American newspaper, March 10, 1992:
 
End of a pipe dream.
Pizza parlor closure silences old organ

 
By Debbie Cafazzo
Journal American Staff Writer
 
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Photo by Rick Schweinhart, Journal American photographer
 
BELLEVUE — Mark your calendar for April 5. That’s when an entertainment era will come to an end.
 
Pizza & Pipes, the downtown Bellevue eatery that’s peddled pipe-organ music and pizza to growing Eastside families since 1977, will close its doors with a final celebration on April 5. On that day the restaurant will open at noon for one last blast of festive food and tunes from the 1,200-pipe, 1925 Wurlitzer theater organ that restaurant co-owner Greg Smith helped rescue from an abandoned New York City movie palace.
 
Downtown Bellevue ‘ s one-of-a-kind attraction, which has hosted everything from kiddie birthday parties to Boeing corporate gatherings, is falling prey to progress. The cavernous building that now houses the huge antique organ and the 4.200-square-foot casual dining room will make way for a new stretch of N.E. Sixth Street, which will provide access to the Meydenbauer Center convention hall under construction across the street from Pizza & Pipes.
 
Smith said he and his business partners, Russ Evans and Jerry Gould, bought the restaurant’s assets two years ago from its founding family, knowing that the city coveted the property where the restaurant sat.
 
FOR SMITH, it was a chance to hang on to a business he’s been part of since 1974, and to feed his lifelong passion for old-fashioned pipe organs.
 
Smith said the original Pizza & Pipes restaurant was opened in the mid-I 960s by Bill Breuer in California, then a hotbed of theme restaurants. Soon, there were other California restaurants, and in the l970s, Breuer and other members of his family expanded to Seattle, then Tacoma, and finally Bellevue.
 
Smith went to work as an organ player and technician for the Puget Sound-area Pizza & Pipes restaurants. The job was a natural for someone who had been playing pipe organs since childhood, when his parents bought a small home version.
 
“When you own one, you learn to care for it,” said Smith, now 40.
 
In 1977, Smith helped move the Wurlitzer from the New York City Academy of Music Theater, where it had endured decades of neglect and water damage, to its second home in Bellevue, where he helped restore it. The organ was loaded onto a semi-trailer and trucked here.
 
‘It breaks down like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” Smith said, gesturing at the wall full of pipes that range in length from a half-inch to 16 feet.
 
The Wurlitzer keyboard controls an electropneumatic system that supplies air pressure designed to move through the pipes. The zinc, wood and brass pipes can mimic the sounds of an entire orchestra.
 
On a typical Pizza & Pipes night, organists Dick Schrum. Andy Crow, Fred Forsberg or Sharon Stearnes are liable to break into anything from a tune from Disney’s The Little Mermaid to a Bach fugue. Often, they’ll accompany the silent movies that show on a screen in front of them.
 
Together with the instrument’s whistles and bells, its bass drum, player piano, floating soap bubbles, sleigh bells and dancing puppets all operated by the organist the Wurlitzer’s wizardry was a previous generation’s answer to MTV and Nintendo.
 
But an evolution in family entertainment style touched the Seattle Pizza & Pipes site in 1989. The Greenwood Avenue property is now a video store. With the demise of the Bellevue restaurant, f?uget Sound will be left with only one Pizza & Pipes, in Tacoma.
 
"Entertainment — that’s the key word,” said Smith. "There’s pizza parlors, but there’s nothing like this featuring entertainment.
 
“It just doesn’t work any more. Now it’s, ‘What can I get for my pizza dollar?’
 
Smith said he’s watched as families he used to see in the Bellevue restaurant twice a month trim their visits to once a month or less. The recession’s effects forced the restaurant to stop serving lunches, and from now until closing, they’ll be serving Bach only with dinner.
 
After April, Pizza& Pipes will disappear from Bellevue. But the Wurlitzer will live on. Smith said it’s been purchased by an out-of-state buyer who wants to remain anonymous.
 
But he said when the organ moves, he’s moving with it. “We’re a package deal,” Smith said with a grin.
 


 

From The Console magazine V17 No.12 Dec 1979, pp1.
 
BREUER SELLS BAY AREA PIZZA PARLORS; KEEPS THOSE IN WASHINGTON
 
Sale of the three Capn’s Galley and the Serra Monte Pizza Parlors by W. E. Breuer to Robert Anderson was learned late this month. Complete details of the transaction were not available at press time, but it was disclosed that the two pizza parlors owned by Breuer in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, were not included in the sale.
 
The four pizza restaurants included in the sale are located in Redwood City, Santa Clara, Campbell and in South San Francisco, California.
 


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