Not much has changed about Davenport’s Pizza since it opened in 1964, except three things we found. Two pizza ovens were added a few years ago due to growing demand. Video game machines have been replaced, but only when the vintage ones have met their absolute final death. And people aren’t quite as familiar with Jim “Peanut” Davenport, a childhood friend of the founder’s in Siluria, Alabama, who had been played for the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series. To get the family side of the Davenport’s story, we sat down to chat with Amanda Thames—who notes she has been eating more plain cheese pizza lately since her kids like it and you can taste the dough and sauce better on it.
How did Davenport’s Pizza get started, and how does that fit into your family tree?
My grandparents Rex and Ardyce Hollis opened the restaurant in 1964. There were no pizza places anywhere around unlike today. They lived on Brook Manor Road right across the street. They opened half of what is now the restaurant where the game room is now, and they took the pizza around trying to introduce this new food to everyone in the neighborhood. Obviously people liked it, and it continued to grow. My mother and my aunt Heather Norris took it over when my grandmother passed away, and my aunt and I run it now. It’s stayed in the same family ever since, and we are continuing the tradition.
What do you remember about growing up around the restaurant?
I’d come with my grandmother. She’d pick us up in the summertime, and she’d make us pizza or give us pepperonis and cheese while we played the games and she made dough and sauce in the kitchen. In high school I was a server down here for a little while. Now my kids love it. If they are out of school on a sick day or in the summer, coming to work with Mom is a lot more fun than it might be for someone else.
What makes Davenport’s pizza unique?
Our dough and our sauce is made fresh from scratch in our kitchen with a family recipe. The thin crust is different. We cut in squares, I don’t know of any other place around here that does that. People who grew up here and come back will say, “We just don’t have pizza like this where we live, and we really need a Davenport’s.” We make our Italian and French dressings, also family recipes. A lot of people ask us to bottle our Italian or to take it home. We have thought about all of that but haven’t pulled the trigger, but maybe one day we will.
What have people remembered about dining here over the years?
There’s a lot of nostalgia associated with our restaurant since we have been here for so long. People will say, “My parents had their first date here.” Or “We got engaged here this many years ago.” Or “I remember going to my softball or baseball games here 20 years ago, and I still recognize Dave making pizzas.” Dave Simpson is our most well known employee. He’s been here for more than 35 years. He makes one of the best pizzas here.
What is the key to Davenport’s longevity?
I think the key to that is doing one thing and doing it well. We are really simple here. We do pizza and salads. We stuck to that one thing and make sure it’s a good product.