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Get Lost at Lost Pizza Company
by Emily Merrell, photography by Amy Long

When customers step into Lost Pizza Co., owners Brad and Sarah McDaniel strive to give them a unique, charming and unforgettable dining experience, from fresh ingredients and an expansive menu to the captivating décor.

Brooks Roberts and Preston Lott founded Lost Pizza Company in the rural Delta town of Indianola, Miss. in 2007. Roberts and Lott had dreamed of creating a pizza place with a cool, funky atmosphere since they were college roommates, and that’s exactly what they accomplished with Lost Pizza Company.

Even the Lost Pizza Co. logo is symbolic of the Delta. The guitar handle represents the blues (Indianola is the home of the late B.B. King), the dog is symbolic of the original name of the restaurant, which was “Lost Dog Pizza Company,” and the highway sign surrounding the dog refers to the original restaurant’s location just off of U.S. Highway 61 in Mississippi, known as the blues highway.

For Brad, owning the Jonesboro location of Lost Pizza is the culmination of an impressive career in the food industry—a fact the restaurant’s loyal customers probably don’t find surprising. His 30-year career in the food industry began with TCBY, opening locations on the east coast before moving to California in 1993, where he was one of the company’s first market developers. After he sold his own TCBY locations in 2001, McDaniel moved to Texarkana, Texas, where he opened a café downtown and met his wife, Sarah.

Unfortunately, the downtown area had not yet been revitalized like Brad had experienced with businesses on the West Coast. Ahead of its time in development, the restaurant closed within a year of being open. Brad then took a job with Sonic Drive-in in San Antonio and was transferred to Indianola within a year of beginning his career with the company. He became an operating partner and eventually a supervising partner of two locations.

After having been in the fast food industry for 12 years, Brad and Sarah decided it was time to invest in something they could call their own. An Arkansas native, Brad always desired to live in his home state again. Lost Pizza was expanding rapidly in Mississippi since its opening in 2007, but no one had offered to take the franchise west of the Mississippi. Brad and Sarah wanted to raise their family of six near the Ozarks, if not somewhere in Northern Arkansas, so in 2014, they began seeking the initial location for Lost Pizza Company in Arkansas.

After much exploration and prayer, Jonesboro was chosen as the first location west of the Mississippi, becoming the 10th store for the growing franchise. Today, Lost Pizza has 13 locations, as well as a “rolling kitchen.”

What is the inspiration behind the unique décor in the restaurant? Did you have a hand in designing the interior?
Sarah: We want everyone to walk in and notice something different, something that pulls you in and reminds you of your grandma’s back porch, or your eccentric neighbor’s house, or a time in life that was just good—like the ‘80s. While we didn’t decorate the entire store ourselves, we put some personal touches on it. All the record albums that are framed are from Brad’s record collection; the snuff jars on top of the beverage cooler were my great-grandmother’s; Brad’s (mom’s) girlhood bicycle is hanging from the ceiling; the windows encased around the party room came from our historic home in Mississippi. We have also had members from the community bring us décor, which only speaks to our desire for Lost Pizza to be a place where people feel at home, and we hope to create a sense of community. Mr. Ronal Foster gave us the license plate hanging below the TV on the stage, Lee Lane kindly loaned us the firetruck on the canopy above the registers and a gentleman gave us a Jonesboro brick to match our Indianola brick sitting on the front counter. We love music and art and tried to incorporate, as well as support, good music and local artists. We intentionally chose not to fill the walls with televisions. While we do want to entertain our customers with sports events, especially those of local teams, our ultimate goal in décor was to encourage families to hang out and spend time together. Food is something to be enjoyed together, and we strive to make every customer feel as if they are dining in our home. We realize mistakes happen but hope the overall experience of dining with loved ones is a good one—a brief retreat from the world.

A crowd favorite at Lost Pizza is the tamales—an unexpected menu item for a pizza place. Is there a story behind the decision to offer tamales at Lost Pizza?
Brad: The parents of one of the founders of Lost Pizza own a diner in Indianola and included tamales on their menu. When Lost Pizza opened next door to the diner, tamales were offered as an extra menu item to round out the Delta side of the new pizza restaurant. The culture of Delta hot tamales reaches down into the Delta of Mississippi all the way up to Jonesboro. Ms. Pat Ramon of Jonesboro owned the hot tamale stand on Gee Street 40 years ago and has graciously allowed us to use her chili recipe. Our tamales are delivered as needed by Mr. Willie, the Hot Tamale Man, all the way from Greenville, Miss., where they are hand-rolled. All Lost Pizza franchisees sell hot tamales.

What are your favorite dishes on the menu?
Brad: My personal favorite dish is tamales with chips, queso and Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan (a brown ale made with whole roasted pecans).
Sarah: I just love food and can’t choose a favorite now that we own a Lost Pizza. Before owning our own franchise, I always ordered the Happy Hippie Pizza with sundried tomatoes. I most often default to a Lola Salad and Spinach Artichoke Dip. Our kids eat a good, plain pepperoni pizza almost daily. Employee favorites include the Delta Melt, BBQ Nachos and Hot Chick Pizza.

What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of owning Lost Pizza?
Brad: The most rewarding part of owning LPC is having created a place where there is a sense of community for both our guests and our staff. I like being a part of a small company with proven success. Because it is a small franchise, we can operate as a small business with freedom to give back to the community as we are able. Working for a corporation such as TCBY and Sonic Drive-In, we experienced limitations as far as what we were able to contribute to organizations outside of the business. The most challenging part of owning Lost Pizza is balance between the needs of the business and customers, family and church. Even though Sarah and I work together and our family is an integral part of the business, finding time away from the store together is a challenge.
Sarah: The most rewarding part of owning Lost Pizza Co. is knowing that you are contributing to the workforce, although it can be the most challenging due to a low unemployment rate in Jonesboro. We have been blessed with a staff that cares about our customers and the food that they serve. We walked into natural friendships in Jonesboro and have been blessed by the acceptance we have received here. The most challenging part of owning any business is balancing life – family, church, staff, guests, business and community. It can become overwhelming quickly if not prioritized correctly.

What would you recommend someone try on their first visit to Lost Pizza Company?
Brad: Mild Bone-In Wings, Holly Ridge Mafia or Thick Crust Otis (Meat Lover’s).
Sarah: Spinach Artichoke Dip, El Diablo Pizza (spicy) or the Lucille Pizza (named after B.B. King’s guitar).

Lost Pizza Co. is located at 906 Southwest Drive, Suite A., and is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call (870) 520-6227, order online by visiting lostpizza.com or find it on social media @LostPizza.