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Features Relays Edition

Breadsticks, land mines and pizza

Paul Revere’s breadsticks are a junk food staple for the Drake University community. It’s a simple recipe — bread doused in a mixture of butter, garlic and cheese; the hot, salty snack satisfies students as an afternoon snack, a midnight study-session aid or a sobering technique.

“At night when we’re working, we’ll have two people that are doing nothing but making breadsticks,” Paul Revere’s Pizza employee Mike Ribar said. He estimates Paul Revere’s Pizza sells about 600–700 orders of breadsticks over Relays weekend alone.

Day in and day out, employees knead the dough, sprinkle the toppings, cook the pizzas, take orders and make deliveries. It’s a process that Ribar, 51, knows well.

Almost every night of the week, he can be found perched at the counter, answering phone calls and taking orders. His first five years he delivered pizzas and now he acts as a night manager.

General Manager Ted Spracklin, 37, has worked with Ribar his entire career. Spracklin said he pulled Ribar from driving cars to help answer phones during the bar rush. His job evolved from there.

“We fight like brothers,” Spracklin said.

Before a career selling pizzas, Ribar was a soldier in the U.S. infantry. He received a 96 on his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) — a test measuring skills for the armed forces. Today, people are required to get at least a 31 on the ASVAB to join the Army.

He served in Korea from 1982-86, and became a sniper within his first year of service. Out of 15 battalions, only 16 slots were available in the sniper school. Ribar was one of only two graduates.

As a sniper, Ribar participated in weekly evacuation patrols. If North Korea were to attack, the soldiers would have an hour to retreat over a bridge on the Imjin River. After an hour, the bridge would be burned, regardless of who or what was on it, or still on the way. In one patrol, Ribar even stepped on a land mine.  It turned out to be a dud.

His Army career was short-lived. Ribar injured his ankle during physical testing, which he never really recovered from. He received an associate’s degree, and then a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics. He worked as a security guard and in the private sector for some time. He took a job selling pizzas in the late ’90s, and he’s been doing that for the past 15 years.

During his time at Paul Revere’s, he has encountered several unusual situations. One in particular he found amusing involved a regular customer named Amy.

“We used to store our vacuum cleaner in the women’s restroom, and she went in there and decided she was going to be cute. She came out of the bathroom with the vacuum cleaner and nothing else on but her bra and panties, and she started to pretend to vacuum the carpet. Needless to say, she was a little bit drunk.”

He’s experienced tragedy, too. This past January, a shooting took place near the restaurant, though no one in Paul Revere’s was involved or injured. Teandre Trumbo-Talton was killed; Ribar said Trumbo-Talton was a regular customer.

“He would just say his name and we knew his order,” Ribar said. “He was a good kid, very friendly, and very respectful. It’s unfortunate that it happened. The good thing is, they caught the guys that did it, and in my 15 years that I’ve been here, that’s the worse thing that’s ever happened. Since then, I’ve noticed an increased police presence.”

Through all of his experiences at Paul Revere’s, Ribar has gained knowledge of the restaurant industry, management and the people of the Drake community.

“He’s definitely taught me a lot over the years,” said Nate Easley, a Paul Revere’s day shift manager. Easley, 32, has been an employee for 11 years, and has worked with Ribar from the beginning.

“Everyone gets along with him,” Spracklin said. “He’s easy to talk to, and he’s a very reliable employee.”

Photo by Erin McHenry, staff photographer

The 2012 Drake Relays will be Ribar’s 16th year with Paul Revere’s. Drake students often see Relays as a party. For Paul Revere’s employees, it is a hectic weekend of cooking.

“Relays is one part stress, one part excitement, and many, many parts breadsticks,” Easley said.

“We have a joke that our favorite day of the year is the day after relays,” Ribar said.

Drake Relays bring in lots of business for Paul Revere’s Pizza, but the restaurant continues to thrive from everyday customers.

“We have one lady that was in the Air Force, stationed in Okinawa,” Ribar said, “and when she would come back, she’d have us make ten to twelve 8-inch pizzas and half cook them. Then she’d put them in boxes with dried ice and she’d ship them to herself in Okinawa. She’d allow herself to have one a week. She got her Paul Revere’s fix overseas.”

Through delivery orders from University Avenue all the way to Johnston, Jordan Creek Parkway, and Urbandale, walk-in orders from Drake students and hundreds of regular customers, Paul Revere’s stays busy. With characters like Ribar answering phones and taking orders every night, from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., it’s hard to imagine the popular pizza place any other way.

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