Goodbye Crystal’s Pizza

19 Feb

Nothing good can ever stay.  On the 8th or maybe 9th day, even before Chuck E. Cheese, God created Crystal’s Pizza and Lord was it good.   For those not familiar – it was a pizza palace.  Seriously- the place was huge.    It always struck me as Louisiana architecture/haunted house -meets-mansion-from- the-movie-CLUE, with its own arcade and cartoon theatre inside.   It was full of side rooms and places that both adults, teens, and kids could all enjoy.   It was truly unique.

Flash forward 35 years and time has taken its toll on the ol’ girl.   My last handful of visit in the last 5 years I have seen a steady decline in terms of upkeep.  Neon doesn’t work outside.   The once cool dark and all wood booths had been painted red-white-and cream colors in an attempt to brighten up the place.   This only made it look dingy.   The place was SUPPOSED to be dark and moody!!!!   Games in the game room stayed broken 80% of the time (with no signs to indicate this so you would lose your money).    The upstairs TV nook was totally closed off permanently.   Once known for its Pizza, Spaghetti, and fun – sadly it was now getting by with lunch buffets in order to compete with places like CiCi’s.  Even the quality of the food suffered.   Nobody was staying to enjoy the place.  The buffet people would eat the cheap eats and immediately leave.   If it wasn’t for the local businesses-people nearby supporting it, Crystal’s would have been in trouble long before now.

Visit after visit, I would see all this and wonder how much it would cost to return this place to glory.   I held out hopes until a week ago when I found out they were going out of business.  This past Wednesday they had a “say goodbye” party of sorts and the place was PACKED.  Newspapers, TV, radio, Facebook – the news spread everywhere.   The place that used to be teaming with kids and teens was now swamped with 20,30,and 40 year olds with their kids and friends in tow.   This place was very sacred to quite a few people and most of them didn’t want to see it go.

Seeing this mob, I was thinking “wow if we had all supported it like this before, maybe it wouldn’t be going out of business.”

Sad really.   The place was enormous so maybe upkeep is expensive, but a few years ago I remember hearing word Crystal’s was under new management.   I am left to wonder if that management really understood what they had on their hands.   Everything that made that place special was almost systematically dismantled.   The stage where acoustic acts and magicians played was in shambles.   The cool fish-tank-table was empty and gone.    It’s like they just let the place disintegrate and focused on just the eating areas.

I returned Saturday afternoon to see how things were going.   I don’t know why, but in my mind I was thinking there would be some news that all this attention had boosted sales and the owners had decided to keep the ship afloat.   No such luck.  I did see that the crowds had continued to grow.   I sat in the middle of the dining room and counted a line of nearly 60 people at one point.   The owners were slinging pizzas on that buffet as fast as possible.   The place was again rockin’ with the sounds of people almost running into each other because it’s so busy.

I chatted a few people up and they shared my concerns and hopes.  Why couldn’t this place be saved?   How had the cool pizza palace from my youth have ended up a dump that people were coming  to say goodbye to?

After seeing two nights of large crowds I just can’t shake the feeling that this could have all been avoided somehow.

I learn of Facebook pages dedicated to former employees from all the other Crystal’s locations and you read nothing but fond memories of working there and how much they loved the place.    Even the Irving Facebook page is slammed with “nnnooooooooo…don’t go” comments.    So there is clearly a loving and loyal following to this place.

And while I think we all sort of share the blame for this place closing (management for letting it become a dump and us for maybe not going more) I am sort of bothered by the latest activity I see in their Facebook page.

The owners have decided to sell off as much of the joint as possible.   Light fixtures, games, signs, and the whole shebang.  You can bid on these items on Facebook.  As you can imagine, anything with a Crystal’s logo on it is getting tons of attention, while the tables and chairs aren’t getting much thought.   I can understand the owner wanting to salvage some money he might have invested in this place — BUT —  auctioning off this stuff tells me that you realize the sentimental value of the place.   I just wish you had figured this out earlier.  Maybe you could have saved the damn joint.

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