Commentary and Opinion

MORRIS: A former entrepreneur returns home to Indiana

September 24, 2011

We write a lot about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in this publication. Successful entrepreneurs create jobs for people who need to work. It’s important to support and celebrate local business ventures that contribute so much to our community.

So, I thought it appropriate to write about a former Indianapolis business owner who has circled back home and helped start another business here in Indy.

In my early days of selling radio advertising, I met Steve Shuel, who owned his own advertising agency. His father, Bill Shuel, actually started the agency in 1973. Steve became its second employee in 1976.

Bill and Steve had a successful run with their business. Then, in 1993, Steve sold the agency to Michelle Daley, who successfully operates that business today as Daley Concepts. Steve Shuel and family moved to Montana, where he wanted to pursue a new career and a new lifestyle.

Why Montana? Steve told me he and his wife, Kathy, wanted to move to a smaller town, off the beaten path, with great educational institutions. He said the dart landed on Big Sky, Mont., with the goal of moving up the road to Bozeman. This is a magnificent area of the country that features the Big Sky Resort, and Bozeman is the home of Montana State University.

After taking six months to figure out what he wanted to do with the next phase of his life, Steve purchased a small local food distributer in Bozeman. As owner of that business, he developed a relationship with a restaurant by the name of MacKenzie River Pizza Co., which was locally owned with one location.

In 1995, when the owner of MacKenzie River wanted to expand his restaurant with additional locations, Steve decided to become a partner in the business. He later bought the enterprise from his partner and expanded it to 12 locations, employing over 600.

In early 2007, someone made Steve an offer for the business that he couldn’t refuse. He remained on the board after the sale, a position he still holds today as the company’s second-largest shareholder. Over the next three years or so, he hung out in this beautiful part of the world and slowed his pace a bit.

Also, during this time, Steve’s two sons graduated from high school in Bozeman and decided to return to their roots and attend Indiana University. Steve and Kathy knew that if they wanted to see the boys, they would have to come to them, so they bought a lake house just outside of Columbus as a summer home.

After graduation, Jonathon Shuel decided to stay in Indiana to pursue a career in the Indianapolis commercial real estate market while Michael Shuel returned to Bozeman.

In the early winter of 2010, Steve’s sons decided that, since they grew up in the restaurant business, they wanted to pursue opening a MacKenzie River Pizza Co. on the north-east side of Indianapolis.

After much thought, talk and guidance from their father, Jon and Mike opened the restaurant less than a mile from where they grew up. Their restaurant is in the Clearwater Springs Shopping Center on East 82nd Street, just west of Allisonville Road. The restaurant opened to the public in mid-May and has done well in the first five months.

My wife and I have dined there on two separate occasions since the opening and had a great experience each time. This is not your basic pizza place. First of all, the décor and theme are definitely outdoorsy, with comfortable furniture made from real Montana logs. The menu is varied, with everything from gourmet pizza to pasta, ribs, fish and chicken. It also offers sandwiches, soups, salads and appetizers. The food and service are excellent. I recommend giving it a try.

When you patronize MacKenzie River Pizza Co., you are supporting what is now a third generation of Shuels that have invested in Indianapolis. At a time when many restaurants are closing, a seven-figure financial investment in MacKenzie River Pizza Co. now provides about 60 new jobs, additional taxes paid, additional charitable contributions in the community, and a long list of positives that follow when a business is successful.

Thanks to the Shuels for their continuing investment in Indianapolis, and God bless the entrepreneurs who drive our economic growth.•

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Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.

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