Will Martin felt a certain kinship when he first met Burt Kordamiri, who opened Italian Pizza Pub in Johnson City in the 1980s.

Kordamiri reminded Martin of his father-in-law John Arrowood, who died in January 2020. There were similarities in their mannerisms, and they were both meticulous businessmen.

“They started out at very similar times in their lives, ran great businesses, built great brands,” Martin said.

Will and his wife Stacy opened the Johnson City location of Peggy Ann Bakery just down the road from the Italian Pizza Pub in September 2019.

Stacy’s grandparents, Bill and Peggy Ann Arrowood, started the bakery in 1982. Responsibilities eventually passed to their son John and his wife Imogene. Now, the family business is expanding into a new kind of dough.

In mid-June, the Martins bought Italian Pizza Pub, 807 W. Walnut St., from Kordamiri. They closed briefly for some light remodels on the front, and they plan to complete more renovations to the outside of the building by early fall. That will include new awnings, new signs and a new patio area.

They’ll also revive the music venue and bar in the back of the restaurant.

The venue will be called “The Pub out Back,” which was the name the venue had in the 1980s before it transitioned to the “Casbah.” Martin expects the venue could also serve as a site for comedy shows, theatrical productions and karaoke nights. They hope to open it in mid-September.

“We want this to be your neighborhood bar,” Martin said, “We’re not going to be running these big fancy specials. We’re not going to be having these $20 meals. It’s going to be a $2 slice of pizza and a $2 or $3 beer and really a good family atmosphere.”

Martin said part of the agreement he and Stacy made when they bought the business from Kordamiri was to keep the original recipes the same, “which we’re happy to do because his recipes are phenomenal.”

“We really want to foster a casual atmosphere: A good place to come get a reasonable priced slice of pizza, reasonable beer, watch a game, listen to a band,” Martin said. “Just a welcome-for-all kind of place.”

He added that Italian Pizza Pub will continue to offer pizza by the slice. Eventually, the Martins may add some new menu items, including specialty pizzas and a new sandwich menu.

Martin said Italian Pizza Pub’s close proximity to Peggy Ann Bakery means it will be easy to share staff between the two businesses and ensure employees aren’t short on hours.

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David Floyd covers Johnson City government, Johnson City schools and Ballad Health for the Johnson City Press. He grew up in East Tennessee and graduated from ETSU, where he was the executive editor of the school paper.

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