When Tim Pace opened Tim’s Pizza Dec. 31, 1987 he was optimistic – but also realistic.

“We ordered 500 menus,” Pace said, “and hoped and prayed we’d use all of them.”

They did – and about 15,000 more over the past three decades as he and his brother Steve celebrated their 30th anniversary last Sunday, by working a 12-hour shift.

But it’s that type of work ethic, and what many customers believe to be the best pizza on the planet, that has made it an iconic location in Eastern Jackson County.

“We’ve had a lot of compliments over the years,” Tim said, “but one the best came in an obituary that read the deceased person’s hobbies were stamp collecting and eating at Tim’s Pizza.”

For 30 years, patrons have been greeted by Tim or Steve on a daily basis – and more recently by Jeff Webb, 28, who’s been working at Tim’s since he was 16, and this veteran trio usually has the customer’s drink on the counter before they enter the door.

“We either know what you want – extra cheese, light sauce, the ingredients – or you’re a first-time customer,” Webb said, as he put the finishes touches on a sizzling bowl of pasta.

Overhearing that comment, Tim chuckled and adds, “Some customers hurt my feelings when they say Jeff makes a better turkey sandwich than I do. He knows how to make it just right.”

In much the same fashion Tim and Steve have fashioned pizza that their legions of loyal customers include Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer and Jackson County Executive Frank White, former Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe, scores of area coaches and high school and professional players and kings of industry.

“When I think about the success of Tim’s Pizza it brings a tear to my eyes,” said Allen Lefko, chairman of the Bank of Grain Valley, who is a frequent lunch guest. “My son, Bill (now the bank’s president), bought the first pizza Tim ever sold back in 1987.

“And we’ve been buying them ever since. We have our annual Christmas party at Tim’s and it’s our home away from home. The food is great, the atmosphere is great – and so homey – and the people who work there are great.

“It’s a place you sit down with friends, have great food and just reminisce and forget about your troubles for an hour and a half.”

Lefko’s comment about the homey atmosphere made Tim smile, as that was one of his original two goals he set for his restaurant when he swam into unchartered pizza waters in 1987.

“I wanted people who walked in the door to come as customers and leave as friends – I wanted this to be their home away from home,” Tim said as he piled the good stuff on an all-meat pizza for longtime patrons Lisa and Jordan Philpott.

“And I wanted to get involved in the community. And I think we have done a good job of doing both.”

Over the past 30 years, Tim’s Pizza had sponsored more area youth sports teams than either brother can recall and made enough charitable contributions – something they refuse to discuss in public – to keep many local organizations functioning.

“As good as the pizza is,” Lefko added, “they are even better men. They mean so much to this community and most people don’t even know what they do. I’m proud to call them my friends.”

Jordan Philpott, a 2008 graduate of Blue Springs South High School, knows about the Pace brothers’ generosity.

He and members of his 2006 state championship football team would come to Tim’s, pick up a dozen donated pizzas, and deliver them – along with bottled water and a $10 bill – to area homeless people.

“I’ve been coming to Tim’s since my first little league baseball and football teams,” said Jordan, whose mother was always active in the Jaguar Booster Club. “This is like my second home.”

His mother Lisa, nodding in agreement, added, “I’ll be driving down 40 Highway and call home and ask if they want pizza and they say, ‘Yeah, if it’s Tim’s.’ I don’t know how they do it, but you can’t make pizza like this at home.”

The pizza and the staff have been consistently excellent, and successful, for 30 years. Former employees are now doctors, lawyers, technicians and teachers. They have employed five Eagle Scouts and Randall Stevenson has been alongside Tim and Steve since day one and is still manning the front counter.

“We’re so proud of our food, and we’re proud of the people we have working here,” Steve said. “Consistency – when it’s good consistency – is the hallmark of a successful business, and we’ve provided pretty good pizza and consistency for 30 years.

“Great staff and it’s been great sharing all this with my brother Tim.”

Steve prefers to remain behind the scenes while Tim is the face of the eatery.

“I think I was the first person to mop the floors after our first day,” Steve said. “Never, never, ever, ever, ever did I think Dec. 31, 1987, that we’d be talking about our 30th anniversary. It’s been fun, a lot of fun.”

Thinking back on his comments about those first 500 menus, Tim grabs a menu from the counter.

“This menu has also been consistent,” he said. “We removed green chilis and added green olives and turkey sandwiches – three changes. And we haven’t had many complaints so I guess we’re doing something right.”