POCATELLO — A proud Pocatello High School Indian from the graduating class of 1966, Steve Piper was overjoyed when he had the chance to purchase and install a commemorative bench from his alma mater in front of Buddy’s a few months ago.
Piper started washing dishes at the Italian restaurant at 626 E. Lewis St. at 13 when it opened in 1961 — five years before he would graduate high school.
So instead of retiring and selling the 60-year-old restaurant as he had announced in August, Piper has reversed course, deciding to stay for a while longer and enjoy the metal bench painted red and blue and adorned with a Native American chief donning the ceremonial headdress.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel good inside about it,” Piper said about selling Buddy’s and stepping away. “I didn’t want to leave the Buddy’s family and the customers and couldn’t handle people wondering about things not being the same, so I cancelled the sale. Everything is back to normal. I am not retiring and I am still the owner.”
Once he came to the realization of what retirement and life away from the restaurant really entailed, Piper said it dawned on him that he really had no idea what he would do with his spare time.
“Buddy’s is the life of Steve Piper,” he said.
Buddy Face, the restaurant’s namesake, and Bill Guido started Buddy’s in 1961. Guido became the sole owner in 1963 and then handed the restaurant down to Piper’s mother, Julie, in 1970. When she died in 1986, Piper assumed control and has been the owner ever since.
When Piper first announced he was staying on Facebook about a month ago, the news garnered hundreds of reactions from local residents. Seeing all the online traffic and reading the words of encouragement left in the comment section “was pretty cool knowing people were glad with my decision,” said Piper, adding, “I hope everyone knows how thankful I am.”
Buddy’s is still operating under shortened hours until Piper can hire a few more cooks in the kitchen and a general manager, he said. Buddy’s is closed on Sundays but opens at 11 a.m. every other day of the week and closes at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“We have a great crew, but we are struggling to add members to our team,” Piper said. “I just have to give those guys a break. If I can pick up another couple of cooks I would increase my hours, but it’s just difficult. They put in a ton of hours. I do appreciate each and every one of them that are here.”
Piper acquired the bench in front of Buddy’s this summer after Pocatello High School changed its moniker to the Thunder with a bison mascot and logo. All but some historical memorabilia of the former Indians mascot were sold and the proceeds were put toward replacement costs for new equipment and materials.
“Kay Anderson was in my graduating class of ’66,” Piper said, “He and the late Werner Rosenbaum, God rest his soul, approached me and asked if I wanted the bench. He brought it down and it sat just perfectly in front of the window. Ron Dykeman came over and bolted it down for me. Now it’s here to stay, just like I am.”