Bumblebee’s buzzing again

Bumblebee’s Pizza owner Kenny Holle stands with his signature menu item, a Chicago style deep dish pizza. Bumblebee’s Pizza re-opened under new ownership on Nov. 12 in downtown Toledo. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

After 10 months on the sidelines, Bumblebee’s Pizza is back in the game under new ownership and with a refreshed menu.

Kenny and Heather Holle purchased the business from Karen Musgrave and Chris Musgrave earlier this fall and are open for business as of last week.

The Holles met while working at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel years ago. Kenny first became acquainted with Bumblebee’s Pizza when he and Heather would stop after work before heading home to Marshalltown.

Through that period they got to know the Musgrave family and developed a fondness not only for the food but also for the place as a landmark, synonymous with the Toledo community.

Life took the couple across the country to Las Vegas six years ago. When they returned, a trip to Toledo for some Bumblebee’s pizza was high on the priority list alongside other regional delicacies like Casey’s donuts and Tasty Tacos in Des Moines.

Bumblebee’s Pizza staff in the dining room during their opening week in Toledo. Pictured are, back row (l-r): Kenny Holle, Jorge Araiza, Luis Avalos-Fonseca, Hunter Holle; front row (l-r): Heather Holle, Austyn Ellenbecker, Ashlynn Ellenbecker and Lexi Holle. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

Kenny unfortunately found that the business had been shuttered following the retirement of long-time owner and operator Karen Musgrave in late 2019.

Karen and her late husband Don ran the pool hall and pizzeria in downtown Toledo for more than 40 years.

In October of 2019 Karen’s sister-in-law Terri Musgrave summed up the character and atmosphere of the place in a tribute that was published in the Toledo Chronicle ahead of Karen’s retirement.

“The business was more than just a bar; it was a gathering place for weddings and wakes, reunions and revelry, a card game in the corner, a political debate at the bar, regulars and fresh faces and at the center of it all was Don Musgrave with Karen and the kids serving as support staff,” Terri Musgrave said.

One year later a new family now has the opportunity to put their own stamp on the Toledo mainstay.

Bumblebee’s 12-inch deep dish pizza looks to be one of the only deep dish pizza offerings available in the state. The new menu will also offer hot wings, sub sandwiches and appetizers to go along with beer, wine and Pepsi products on the drink menu. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

The Holles both plan to work at the shop along with help from their two kids Lexi and Hunter.

The two bring both retail and food service experience into their new venture. They co-owned a bowling alley in Creston, Iowa for six years before relocating to Las Vegas around 2014. While there, Kenny worked as a district manager with Domino’s Pizza overseeing 12 locations.

The doors at Bumblebee’s re-opened for business on Nov. 12. The first Friday they were open it was much busier than Kenny Holle anticipated.

Fortunately the feedback from customers in the first week has been largely positive according to Holle.

He hopes Bumblebee’s will carve out a niche in the Tama-Toledo restaurant market as a versatile business the offers a comfortable destination to dine-in.

“Sometimes carry-out and delivery is fine,” Holle said. “But on occasion I want to go to a pizza place and eat-in and make a mess out of somebody else’s table instead cleaning up and doing dishes at home. I want to offer that dine-in experience because not everybody wants to eat at home every time.”

One challenge they, as well restauranteurs throughout the rural Midwest, are faced with is hiring. It’s not only a struggle to find help but also to find the right balance of experienced workers and newcomers than can be trained on the job.

Holle said Bumblebee’s would ideally like to employ around 12 workers for their Toledo operation.

Bumblebee’s will maintain a delivery business as well as dine-in and carry-out options from their storefront on Toledo’s courthouse square.

They will be open seven days a week. Their hours include Sun.-Thur. from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri. from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sat. from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Bumblebee’s signature item will be a Chicago style deep dish pizza. Holle boasts the unique nature of the item and said the only other place customers can find deep dish pizza in Iowa is in West Des Moines where the Giordano’s chain restaurant from Chicago opened a location last year.

Bumblebee’s deep dish will also be available by the slice during lunch hours.

The menu will also offer a variety of pizzas from a 10-inch small to a 16-inch extra-large size. Pasta, bone-in wings, sub sandwiches and appetizers round the menu that is suited for lunch or dinner, dine-in or at home.

“It’s a classic, authentic Italian restaurant,” Holle said. “We’re more than pizza. We make our sauce and breadsticks in-house and I think that makes us more like an Italian place than just pizza.”

In the coming days Holle plans to add beer and wine to the drink menu along with their selection of Pepsi products. There are however no plans to reinstate a bar alongside the restaurant.

The former Bumblebee’s antique back bar was sold by Musgrave ahead of her retirement and now resides at the newly opened Lucky Horse Beer & Burgers in Des Moines’ Drake neighborhood.

The old bar area has been converted to a full dining room where Holle has added a pair of flat screen TVs and fireplaces to help warm the atmosphere.

The pool tables and back patio remain in their prior location where Holle hopes to expand into live entertainment offerings some time in the future.

Customers that visit Bumblebee’s during this time of pandemic can count on social-distanced seating, face coverings to be worn by all employees and a routine schedule of sanitization.

“I’ve always enjoyed working at restaurants, especially in the pizza business. Domino’s really taught me a lot as well. It’s a way to meet new people I think and everybody like’s pizza. It’s one of those things where there’s a big demand for it and I love doing it.”

Bumblebee’s Pizza is located at 112 N Broadway St., along the courthouse square in Toledo. You can reach them at 641-481-7328.