It was 50 years ago when Fun House Pizza opened off U.S. 40 in Independence.
And when anyone goes in there today, it looks nearly the same as it did when it first opened in 1968. It uses the same ovens, employees still make dough from scratch, the mechanical horses are still there after 50 years, and the wooden tables, chairs and benches are still there, giving the longtime pizzaria that same old-school feel it had 50 years ago.
Current owner Tina Rushton, who inherited Fun House Pizza from her parents, has no intentions of changing anything about the restaurant any time soon.
“We still roll the dough the exact same way,” she said. “We do things the exact same way like the handbook says. The only thing that will change is a product here and there because the product we used to use no longer exists.
“Our dough will not cook on a conveyor belt oven. It’s a rising bread dough. I would call what we do the old-fashioned way. I’ve had salesmen come in and sell me (premade dough), but that’s not us. Our dough is fresh every day. That’s what we pride ourselves in. What we have is what you expect when you walk in.”
The same goes for the interior of the restaurant.
“We plan on repainting some of our walls, but we won’t ever take down any of the pictures,” Rushton said. “I have heard some people say we’re backwards, but we’re not backwards, we like things the way it is.
“People like to come in and say, your dad rode this horse when he was your age. I hear that a lot. Those horses have been taken care of and maintained over the years. The building is always going to look this way because that’s the way it’s supposed to look.”
The original Fun House Pizza opened in Raytown but is now closed. Tina’s father-in-law, David Rushton, who built the the original establishment, talked to the owner of Fun House before opening his own.
David Rushton and Tina’s mother-in-law and their parents got a loan for the business in 1967 when Rushon’s father-in-law started building the establishment that same year. And their Fun House is independent from the Fun House chain that is located elsewhere across the Kansas City metro area.
The grand opening of Fun House took place Feb. 11, 1968.
“We stand alone, we are not a part of the original group,” Rushton said.
Tina Rushton started working at the restaurant in 1984 busing tables and washing dishes and met her husband while working there.
“We met and started dating,” Rushton said. “Six months, we got married and we were married 27 years before he passed away with a heart attack at 47 years old.”
Currently, Rushton runs Fun House by herself, but gets some help from her son with managing the advertising and media work. She had been helping run the business for 30 years alongside her mother-in-law, until she passed away, and has been running things alone for six years.
Owning Fun House Pizza has been almost an around-the-clock job for her as she’s there seven days a week to make sure everything runs smoothly, but she’s had fun doing it over the years.
“It’s been fun, we used to have live bands play, and we always have the big parties for the kids that come in with their ball teams,” she said. “I get to watch their kids grow, so that’s kind of fun.”
She’s has plenty of longtime customers even some that have been coming to the pizzaria since it opened.
“I’ve got people that not only do they still come here, but their children bring their children here,” Rushton said. “Then you have generations of birthday parties here.”
One such longtime customer is Bob Stinnett, and he said there is no other place in the Kansas City area he’d rather go to get his pizza than Fun House.
“”This was another pizza place before it was Fun House,” Stinnett said. “I can’t remember what it was called. I live in Oak Grove and I drive here at least twice a week. Tina is a really good friend of mine and I love coming here.”
Although Fun House has been largely the same over the last 50 years, there have been some changes.
“We used to be open until 1:30 in the morning,” Rushton said. “When I first started working here, we didn’t get out of here until 3 in the morning. Everything has changed. The neighborhood has changed. We don’t have the late bar crowds anymore. That’s not really what I want to focus on anyway. I want this to be a family-friendly place. With the way 40 Highway is changing, we wanted to close a little earlier.
“Also, polish sausage and sauerkraut was big on pizza in the '60s. And oysters were also a popular topping back then. Now, our biggest seller is our original Fun House combination, so is our barbecue and our meatball (pizza). The appetizer side has also gotten bigger over the years.”
Even with the advancement in technology in the pizza industry, and her choosing to keep a lot of what Fun House does the same as it was 50 years ago, Rushton still plans on her restaurant being open for awhile.
“I can see us still being open 10 years from now,” Rushton said. “I still get good business. It’s decent and it has kept us up and going. I want to sit here and think my mother-in-law, my father-in-law and my husband and everybody (are) thinking I am doing pretty good now.”